Who is responsible for migrants killed in the Med?

19th April 2016

A boat has capsized off the coast of Italy, leaving just 41 survivors. The boat was making the crossing from Libya to the European Union. Initial reports, though unconfirmed, suggest that as many as 500 travellers have died.

In March 2015, approximately 10,000 came to Europe via Italy and Greece. A year on, the figure has swelled to over 35,000 each month.

This tragic event occurred just hours after a report was published suggesting that through “wilful neglect”, the European Union was killing travelling migrants.

It is clear that the EU has played a part in this. Encouraging migrants to come to Europe’s shores, promising to take them in, giving messages like Merkel’s unanimous “welcome” earlier this year, has certainly led many to make this perilous journey.

European neglect, however, is one of the things that did not kill these people. Had we neglected them; turned them away and sent them back, perhaps we would have sent a message: do not attempt this dangerous journey. But we have done the opposite; we have said: try. If you make it, we’ll take you in.

When a boat left Libya several days ago, it contained 241 people. It was boarded by human traffickers in the Mediterranean and the 241 were moved onto a larger boat which already contained 300 people. These people were sent on to Italy from there, but died before they could reach their destination.

What and who is at fault here? Crises in Africa and the Middle East. Governing bodies in these migrants’ home countries. Migrants who did have a choice about their journey, and chose to cross the Med. Human traffickers ferrying people into Europe on overcrowded, unsafe boats. European officials encouraging people to make the journey (or rather, not discouraging it).

One of the few things not at fault here, however, is European neglect.

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