Though in the traditional sense, we equate water with life, the past few years, with seemingly no let up in sight, the Mediterranean has been akin to a liquid coffin to those attempting to cross it.
This attempt is sometimes a choice, with the hope of a better life. All too often, though, in the worst case scenarios, which we are now seeing with alarming regularity of late, so many must flee their countries of origin. And so , they take to the waters in overcrowded, unsafe, rickety boats without food, water or relief from either the relentless sun or the elements. Their nameless, faceless traffickers always remain that way as they tuck their bills into their pockets. And then they troll for more “business.” Supply and demand is in sync in the most sinister of ways.
How many of these deaths could have been prevented? What is really happening here? Anyone who follows the news will remember the “left-to-die” case wherein a boat , disabled and laden with 72 migrants drifted for two weeks in the Mediterranean, wholly ignored by both commercial ships as well as NATO forces that were patrolling the area. For two weeks. Which, to any thinking and feeling person is an atrocity that is hard to wrap one’s brain around. How could this happen? The boat eventually drifted back to the Libyan shore, by which time 61 people were dead. After the boats arrival, two more unlucky victims of circumstance and greed succumbed, for a grand total of 63. While so many in positions of power, in postions to give assistance turned a blind eye. Official inquiries ensued revealing a “catalogue of failures.” Well. What can one say?
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) gave a press briefing in in Geneva on January 31, 2012. Their spokesperson, Sybella Wilkes stated that according to their estimates, 2011 was the deadliest year for the Mediterranean region, where more than 1,500 people ‘drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.’ Also noted was the “previous” high of 630 “dead or missing” in 2007. Even 630 seems unconscionable, and yet, even that grim figure has been surpassed.
ANSA news agency reported,just days ago a migrant ship , thought to be carrying 150 people, originating in North African ,sank off of the coast of Sicily. Those rescued were pulled from the water. Others were found on the island of Lampion.
Sicily remains one of the preferred entry points to the European Union, along with the island of Lampedusa. Despite attempts at stricter controls, it appears that it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
While in the meantime. . . So many boats. So many people. So many unnamed , anonymous (to us) lives. Human traffickers are the opportunists who play on the fears and desperation of the desperate. They are connive and lie and no matter how many people die in the sea, no matter how many bodies never retrieved despite the best of efforts, no matter the stories one human being tells another of the tragedy of someone they know, or knew, the traffickers will always have business. And plenty of it, too. Because one man’s utter desperation will always be another man’s golden opportunity.