On the death of 700 migrants in Mediterranean sinkings

June 1, 2016

By Migrante International

Migrante International grieves with migrants and refugees of the world after the United Nations has confirmed that at least 700 are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week in three separate incidents.

The casualties were Italy-bound migrants and refugees from a 13,000 contingent who set sail from Libya on an eight-day period. The death toll is the highest since the European refugee crisis started last year, when 1,300 died, and bringing the casualties for this year to more than 2,000.

The deaths also once again underline the lack of solutions to the present migrant crisis, which has been aggravated by the ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria. Europe, whose governments are being censured by their own peoples and peoples of the world for refusing to give protection and urgent sanctuary to migrants and refugees, most of them victims of smugglers and traffickers, is once again in the spotlight.

Since last year, refuges who come mostly from war-torn and crisis-ridden Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, sail by the thousands in dangerous vessels to pass through transit points in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Hungary, hoping to enter Italy, the United Kingdom Germany, Austria, France, Greece and Sweden. They cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, desperately taking the two choices left to them: death at sea or the uncertain future they will have to face in the country they are hoping to seek refuge in.

The migrant crisis, however, is not a European problem alone. Last year, the world also watched in horror as thousands of trafficked Rohingyas stranded at sea were left to die, without proper food, shelter and protection, as ASEAN states refused them entry into their borders.

The EU should be taken to task for the positions it had taken in the Middle East and North Africa civil strifes and their repercussions. The US, likewise, should be held accountable for its decades-long interventionist wars and wars of aggression to secure economic and military positioning. Asian states should also be liable for toeing the anti-refugee and anti-migrant posturing of the US and EU under the guise of so-called war on terror and war on trafficking, resulting in the criminalization of migrants and refugees, restriction of borders and a global humanitarian crisis that has long gone out of hand.

Migrante International stands in solidarity with our brother and sister refugees and asylum-seekers. Migrants, particularly Filipino migrant workers, are not oblivious to the horrors, hardships and harshness of being turned away, rejected, prosecuted, criminalized and spurned. Where there are conflicts and wars, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are restrictions and stringent immigration measures, so Filipino migrants are. Where there are uncertainties and threats of imminent death, so Filipino migrants are.

Filipino migrant workers are also no stranger to civil strife in their homeland.

In the Philippines, thousands of Lumad communities have been displaced due to militarization in Mindanao. Heightened attacks on indigenous communities, especially on Lumad schools, have caused thousands upon thousands to flee their ancestral lands in search for protection and in fear of their lives.

The bigger tragedy is that these attacks are perpetrated by the Philippine government through the military, given license by a counter-insurgency program patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency Guide on “war on terror” – the very same policy that has caused millions of migrants and refugees to flee their lands, by the same proponents that uphold labor export and other neoliberal policies that drive peoples to forced migration in search of so-called greener pastures at the risk of danger or even death.

Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants around the world to stand in solidarity with refugees in Europe. Migrante International calls on all Filipino compatriots and fellow migrants to oppose imposed borders and merciless immigration and refugee policies that trample on the fundemental rights of refugees and migrants of the world.

No to borders. Humanity and compassion should know no barriers. ###