Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Just a few days ago a crowded fishing boat carrying more than 400 would-be migrants capsized close to the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. More than 150 people died most of them Egyptians. The boat was destined for Europe and there were people from various nationalities on board, all seeking better life in Europe.
This is not the first time a tragic incident like this took place in the Mediterranean and most likely will not be the last one. Thousands of people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014 in maritime disasters.
People trying to flee their countries due to war has become an international crisis and there seems to be no solution or end to this tragedy. Thousands were arrested trying to cross through choppy seas and many traffickers were also arrested following operations that still seem to continue. Many new rules were introduced to stop this, but to no avail.
Emotions are now high and questions are being asked. It is worth risking life and paying a big amount of money to the traffickers in search for better future? Are these desperate people crossing the high seas on boats that lack sea worthiness for economic reasons or just to seek freedom?
For anyone to pay his or her life savings to organized human traffickers and travel to the unknown shows his or her desperation. But many think the risk involved is too much.
Most of the migrants who actually make it to Europe would accept any kind of job given to them, but at the same time many of them can use their life savings and use it as a start-up for any kind of business in their home country no matter how small instead of subjecting themselves to continuous risks when fleeing their home countries. Illegals are subject to abuse by the traffickers and law enforcement agencies of the host countries.
What caught many people’s attention is that many of the dead in these incidents are infants, babies and young kids. This caused emotional stress to many people around the world who are concerned about this kind of human tragedy.
Just a few days ago the world was watching and following the United Nations conference that highlighted the tragedies of refugees and migrants. This is why it is important to address the reason why people risk their lives trying to cross borders rather than trying to think about solutions of how to accommodate them. This trend will continue as long as there is poverty, lack of social equality and fair distribution of wealth.
Now it is the duty of the countries in north Africa, which are known to be the converging points for migrants heading to Europe, to be more prudent and impose tough laws on human trafficking. It is also important to educate people that the countries they are heading to do not necessarily ensure a better future. They should know that they are risking their lives, exposing themselves to abuse and discrimination.
It is true that many of the would-be migrants are from countries in Africa and Asia, but at the same time the so-called Arab Spring countries have seen massive exodus of people to Europe looking for better future. What makes things worse is the fact that many of those seeking better life and running away from their countries are highly educated and skilled people and they can’t live in strife-torn countries where people are losing their lives everyday and they don’t know what will be their future.
All countries have assets and riches that can be utilized and distributed fairly among the people.
But, unfortunately many countries have not implemented the proper social and economic development. Education is the most important element in any country’s development but if violence or poverty continues, the number of people in these countries will try to migrate and the world will hear more tragedy and more deaths resulting from the criminal greed of human traffickers. But, anyway it is not worth losing one’s life at sea. You will be just a number in the statistical figures.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Braving A Sea of Troubles reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.