Root cause of Mediterranean crisis needs closer inspection

Published 11/08/2015 | 00:00

THE men and women of the Irish Navy deserve enormous credit for their recent work in the Mediterranean where, since May, they have helped save the lives of thousands of migrants.

The Government has, quite rightly, heaped prise on the Irish Naval service for their role in the response to the migrant crisis which, only last week, saw the crew of the LÉ Niamh rescue 367 migrants from a capsized barge.

However, the crisis - and especially Ireland's life saving role in Europe's delayed response - has allowed the Government to avoid some harsh questions about how we treat migrants and refugees here in Ireland.

Sadly the issue has been long ignored by the vast majority of an Irish public understandably concerned with their own circumstances in the midst of the crippling recession.

But thousands of migrant and refugee families, many with Irish born children who have spent their entire lives here, live in cramped conditions with only pittance for food and clothes.

The Government is right to praise our Navy for their brave and selfless work but, at a time when it is perhaps politically risky for parties to advocate for migrant rights, they should not be allowed forget their own failures at home.

Another aspect of the current crisis in the Mediterranean is the generally cold response from Europe's leading nations. Rather than the humanitarian crisis it so clearly is, the situation is being treated by many leaders as an irritating inconvenience.

Unlike, for example, the victims of an African famine, these thousands of desperate migrants, most fleeing terror and tyranny on makeshift vessels are being treated as greedy free loaders who sponge off Europe's tax payers.

Europe's leaders appear entirely unwilling to accept any role in the cause of the crisis and maintain they are mystified as to what or who is really responsible, save for the migrants' alleged greed.

If they want to see who is truly responsible, just look in a mirror. It is the legacy or the West and Europe's interference in North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the current crisis.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have plunged the region into chaos for over a decade and the West has completely failed to take action to stem the growth of the savage ISIS movement.

The desperate hordes of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, or indeed those in Calais are not doing it because they want welfare or a job in a fast food restaurant. They are taking these extraordinarily dangerous risks because they want to survive.

Terrified fathers and mothers are not putting their children on fragile rafts in the lethal waters of the Mediterranean because they want to sponge benefits. They are doing so because, if they don't, they face the very real risk that they could be slaughtered and their children sold into sex slavery.

The migrants of the Mediterranean need and deserve our help but if we are to actually end the crisis then the root causes must be addressed. Looking at Europe's role in creating the problem might be a good place to start.

Wexford People

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