Those who work in the human rights arena are quite good at statistical information. Right now, all eyes are on the Mediterranean as authorities are claiming that the latest deaths of refugees on packed boats is the worst disaster to hit this body of water, ever. This is a humanitarian tragedy, a massacre, disaster being too tame a word for the way I and so many others feel about these senseless deaths.
Statistics on refugees are ubiquitous. The agencies that attempt to give this population aid and other services count their heads like herds of sheep, attempt to track their impact on the places in which they find themselves, small towns on mainland Italy and Sicily in which the unemployment rates are higher than one can even imagine they could be, and they live, these vulnerable people, in fear of being scapegoats for just about anything that ails a society. I am tired of hearing how only 10% of refugees who arrive in Italy arrive by boat. What is this statistic supposed to mean? My humanitarian standards, that 10% matters a hell of a lot.
I, and so many others, who have seen this terrible refugee phenomenon up close and personal in the Mediterranean, can’t help but feel that this latest tragedy goes beyond the pale. The anger that I feel at a system that has failed, in any concerted and systematic attempt to alleviate these deaths in the cold waters of the Mediterranean,( what I have called a “liquid coffin” in this blog before), simply boggles the mind.
It has been re ported that Italy’s coastguard, coordinating the search for survivors, found only 28 who managed to keep breathing. They believe that 700 people were on one of the boats and that refugees caused the boat to capsize as they panicked and all ran to one end of the boat, helping to sink it.
The water, thick and slick with oil is preventing divers from the recovery of bodies.
All of those bodies.
All of those young lives.
“It seems we are looking at the worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean, “ UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said.
Understatment. And sadly, almost certainly, not the last incident we will be witness to.
Have we not learned anything from the horrific Lampedusan tragedy of October 3 , 2013 where the deaths of Eritrean nationals, was said to be upwards of 363? The sorrowful platitudes echoed for months afterwards, heads sadly and slowly shook from side to side, eyes downcast, fists beat against breasts.
For years the refugees have been coming, heading for port cities, anyplace to to build their new lives. . Does this seem an obvious point to make? I make it people begin need to begin to pay attention(in case they have been living under a rock somewhere) when something incredibly awful happens, when the news media flood our eyes with terrible images. But the thing is, this is not new—-and—do you see what I am getting at? Anyone?
When does the breast-beating end and real solutions begin?
European Union??? The world is waiting.
As the political analysts weigh in, doing what they do, prognosticating with furrowed brows from a distance, the refugees will continue to flee desperate situations despite they danger and arrive in places in which their lives’ will be far from what they had hoped that they would be. A place where their very lives’ are very, very big business, for those who know how to make a living off of the most vulnerable. And there are many who are doing just that.
I have been in refugee camps and refugee centers and have witnessed the deep sadness, nearly pathological in the eyes of those whose future is uncertain at best. How does one even begin to think of a future when one’s most immediate past are memories of a journey full of fear, deprivation and exploitation?
Until then, the world will keep count.
But no one will be able to pretend, any longer, that this hasn’t been a tragedy all along, that each new massacre isn’t the first of its kind.