Let’s start with what is simple. There are humans stranded in the middle of the sea, dying or dead. Those humans must be taken out of the sea, and their health seen-to. Whatever happens, one simply cannot, without abandoning all sense of moral direction, knowingly and willingly allow or facilitate the death of the people at sea.
The decision to close ports is unlawful. The case presented by the Maltese government is reprehensible on the same if not a higher level. For one thing, lambasting ships such as Sea Eye’s ‘Alan Kurdi’ as human traffickers is entirely irresponsible without any sort of proof to do so. It is clear that we are allowing COVID-19 to kill any sort of sensible reaction needed in a situation like this. It is almost as if we have come to think that were the NGOs to stop operating, the migrants would stop coming. The truth is that without NGOs doing the work that they are doing, many more would drown in the world’s biggest cemetery, the Mediterranean sea.
But that is not all. This problem will never be solved, if human trafficking and smuggling keeps being a reality. European countries bordering or surrounded by the Mediterranean sea have been saving lives for decades, and for decades lives will continue to require saving. There is no questioning the fact that this process of doing so is both putting strain on national resources. Does this mean that we should stop saving migrants? Preposterous.
To say that we should stop saving migrants because we’ve done so in the past is to prioritise material resources over human life, a fallacy our people do not yet commit in any other societal sphere. But it cannot be denied that this reality is often swaying public opinion against migrants in general, which might seem superficial, but in a democracy, can be lethal.
In the face of this reality, apart from saving the migrants currently at sea, we call for two major, intertwined decisions that we believe are essential in finding the solution to this humanitarian crisis;
1.) Unauthorised NGOs and human traffickers must halt their operations and stop playing chess with people, delivering them into the middle of the sea in hopes that political pressure can force a country to reluctantly take them in.
2.) The Maltese government, should the European Union not act in a coordinated fashion as hinted at by the foreign ministry, must look towards the shores of northern Africa, and work tirelessly to;
i.) Help communities and people in danger to set up sustainable communities with guaranteed Education and Health, and help set them on a path towards self-sustainability.
ii.) Initiate and strenghten diplomatic efforts, in order to inch ever closer towards the prospect of peace in the region.
Our reasoning is simple. If migrants are going to be constantly replaced by migrants, it will only be a relatively small number of people on boats that will be saved, even if one assumes that all are saved. We need to be careful of the inflated image of the immigration crisis, these instances are giving us. Individual boats are blinding the focus from the real crisis, which is happening on land, where millions are dying on a daily basis, before the few get onto boats.
A solution that is often pointed towards, is burden sharing. Now, although we agree, one must keep in mind that burden sharing will only kill the pain for a while. In the long term, Europe needs to address the burden, not simply accept it.
It is from a humanitarian origin of thought that we are proposing this course of action. The chess game of people at sea is doing nothing but distracting the whole world from a far bigger problem, whilst destabilising the very countries that are equipped and have the duty to addressing the same problem.
Regardless, the chess pieces currently being used are humans, and they must not be left at the mercy of the political moves of governments, they must be saved.
This statement was written by;
Jacob Grech, Jacob Callus, Kyle Patrick Camilleri, Nathan Portelli, Matthew Cassar, Gianluca Vella
Bradley Cachia (Grupp Studenti Maltin), George Portelli (georgeportelli.com), Nikos Chircop (nikoschircop.wordpress.com)