In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services

It's time to stop arguing about blame, and instead put in place an effective rescue mission for desperate migrants


With a death toll close to that of the Titanic sinking, a week of disasters in the Mediterranean has forced UK and EU leaders to pay attention to the failure of their brutal policy of withdrawing rescue services.

The UK must join with other EU members to restore an effective Mediterranean rescue mission.

The UK government can and should also act immediately to fund initiatives such as the joint MSF/MOAS rescue mission.

These disasters have made clear what is necessary. Still there are attempts by UK and EU leaders to displace responsibility, to distract from the primary causes and thus avoid effective action.

This exodus is not caused by ‘human traffickers‘, it’s caused primarily by war. The term ‘human traffickers’ is misleading, conflating people-smuggling with enslavement. Those fleeing across the Mediterranean, while they may be exploited by boat owners, are not enslaved by them. They have not been kidnapped and sold into bondage, but have for the most part made a rational choice between trying to survive war, and trying to survive the sea.

Attacking smugglers makes no more sense than withdrawing rescue services did.

It’s not that long ago that some Europeans were charging other Europeans who were fleeing genocide enormous sums of money to make an escape by sea. For example Denmark proudly remembers 1943, when almost all of Denmark’s Jews escaped the Holocaust with the help of their fellow citizens.

Less emphasis is placed on the fact that many were charged amounts equivalent of up to £5,500 for places on boats making the relatively short crossing to safety in Sweden.

Where there is desperation there will be exploitation, so we need to tackle the reasons for the desperation to stop the exploitation:

  • Resettle more of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees.
  • Create safe routes as an alternative to dangerous sea crossings.
  • Act to end the worst of the violence: stop Assad’s barrel bombs.

Another diversion in some responses to the Mediterranean crisis has been to blame the deaths on NATO’s intervention in Libya.

But note that Libyans themselves are barely represented amongst those fleeing. Syrians make up over a third of those entering the EU irregularly according to figures from Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The next largest national group are people from Eritrea. 67,000 Syrians sought asylum in Europe last year, most arriving by sea.

In contrast UNHCR figures show the current total of Libyan refugees and asylum seekers at under 6,000 worldwide—though the number seeking refuge abroad may yet rise significantly as UNHCR believe up to 400,000 Libyans are internally displaced.

The true role of Libya in the Mediterranean crisis is as a place of transit, though it is far from being the only one. Sailing from Libya has become easier since the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship.

Previously, a deal between Italy and Libya resulted in the regime acting as Europe’s outsourced border guards, locking up people trying to flee on boats. Here’s a description from a 2010 report by PRI’s The World, describing the experiences of Daoud from Somalia:

Daoud tried to make the trip north aboard a smuggling vessel, but he was arrested as he tried to board, and sent to a prison in Tripoli, where he became seriously ill.

“I believe it used to be a chemical plant because all of us had skin rashes and the Libyan prison guards used to beat us at least twice a day,” Daoud said. “And that’s what created and forced us to break out of jail. My intention was just to get out of Libya and head to the seas and to see where my luck takes me.”

Daoud alleges that his dark skin color had a lot to do with how he was treated in Libya: “They directly called me a slave. So, it was horrible. They will tell you in your face.”

Jean-Philippe Chauzy is director of communications for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He’s traveled frequently to Libya, and said Daoud’s story is shared by many migrants there.

Daoud’s experience shows why this policy was morally unsustainable. The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime showed it was also practically unsustainable. Had NATO not intervened to protect civilians there, the likely result would not have been a more stable Libya, but a longer and more bloody revolution as we’ve seen in Syria, with many more desperate people fleeing to Europe’s shores.

Kellie Strom blogs and tweets here 

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36 Responses to “In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services”

  1. littleoddsandpieces

    Why not open properly organised refugee camps in Ebola affected African nations.

    Buying from local community the needs of the refugee camps, so pouring that money into clean water, social housing, public medicine projects, into the local community, so as to prevent Ebola epidemic ever again.

    The traffickers then have no supply, as housing, clothing, food, and a safe haven are without any need of the asylum seekers paying any money at all to them.

    Instead use their own money to set up little micro businesses in the refugee camps.

    Why cross an ocean at all.

    Why not feed and clothe the poor, both asylum seeker and local community?

  2. Copyright101

    Previously, a deal between Italy and Libya resulted in the regime acting
    as Europe’s outsourced border guards, locking up people trying to flee
    on boats

    True. And now we need to be our own border guards.

    Once it’s clear that every migrant will be turned away and/or deported they will stop coming. Those who encourage them are condemning more to drown.

  3. damon

    Can someone explain what the point of these kinds of posts actually is?
    It’s someone’s point of view, fair enough. But is worth no more than mine or anyone else’s I guess.
    Maybe its just that it’s supported by the people who run this blog. Fair enough again. It still doesn’t mean it’s worth anything more than a Ukip supporter’s opinion.

    I just heard a spokesman for the Green Party refuse to answer the presenter on the Radio 4 programme’s questions about how the practical side of granting amnesty to people fleeing war and poverty would work in practice. He was asked about six times about the detail of where people would apply if they were not going to have to travel up to the Mediterranean coast and get on boats.
    Could Nigerians apply in Nigeria for example. What if they were refused, as most from there surely would be. The Green Party guy wouldn’t go near such questions even if they were asked, because the pretence is that Europe can take nearly all people who would need to be saved from danger and poverty. There’s too much BS in this whole debate, and that is harming the migrants IMO.
    If we can’t have a proper discussion, things won’t get done and more people will die.

    How many Syrian asylum seekers is Europe meant to take? Millions of them? Will they be expected to go home afterwards? Many or most asylum seekers who go to Europe don’t go home afterwards.
    After a couple of years that’s it. They have families and then have no intention of going back for good.
    Even if they regularly go back to their country or origin on long visits. Somalians do that all the time I believe. Because they don’t come from the worst effected regions.
    Asylum became a big racket, and the false claiming people ruined it for the genuine ones.

  4. damon

    Another point about saving people at sea. If you think it will save lives fair enough.
    Even if you hate it, would you concede that the Australian policy of taking migrants to Pacific islands has also saved lives because the boats have stopped coming? And that if Australian made it clear that it was going to start search and rescue missions off the Indonesian coast where the refugee boats used to start from, it might encourage that to start up again?

    And why save them at sea and have to search for them? Why not put ferries into Libya and take them directly off from there? Or at least have the ferries or ships waiting a mile off shore and have people come out to them on rowing boats. Keeping within sight of the shore so people didn’t get lost at sea.
    And we could run this programme for ten years and how many people do you think might come?
    They would be chartering buses from all over Africa to head for Libya.

    Its not just Katie Hopkins who has spoken of military solutions BTW. Paddy Ashdown has talked of destroying boats before they are used, and a former admiral has said we could turn the boats back.
    But would have to be in close to the shore blockading the ports like Zuwara which is a smuggling centre where boats have been leaving from. It’s not a big town. Maybe we could even occupy it for a while to make it clear that ”we” know what they are doing and we will come for the men from the clans who are behind the smuggling.

  5. V Hale

    This great video illustrates, with gumballs as visual tools to show numbers, the fruitlessness and counterproductivity of giving asylum to people fleeing from poverty

  6. Robert

    Of course they will not stop, they are desperate people who will keep on trying no matter what, when you have nothing else to live for trying is all you have left .

  7. Robert

    If only it was that easy, governments would do it, but as we have seen so many times before the money never gets to the people who need it most

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep disagreeing with a Mr…Farrage.

  9. Guest

    They don’t leave people to die. And telling people to quietly die does not work.

    You make up nonsense to justify leaving people to die. No surprise you approve of anything involving violence, invasion, death..

  10. Guest

    You keep disagreeing with Mr. Farrage, fighting against the concept of Asylum, as you make excuses for people not dying to your Brother Assad, who was given space when we didn’t deal with him.

    No point discussing anything, you note, and claim that your opposition to debate is universal.
    UKIP policy is not yours, on this.

    No surprise you’re bigoted against Nigerians, KNOWING about them without evidence. Death helps people in your ridiculous equivalence – as you note, you oppose talking about this, and hence people dying. As usual.

    Your calls for hammering shut any border you can get your hands on, to the 99% – and of course not to your 1%, capital or cheap goods…

  11. Guest

    Ah yes, once you’ve sealed the borders to stop people fleeing.
    Once millions of British people have been purged.

    You want to lock up the British in a prison, to refuse trade.
    Your fear of the world…

  12. Guest

    Let’s also of course remember you’re an Anti-Semite who has accused Murdoch of being Jewish, so Jews would be on your death lists.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    He doesn’t care, he’s a conspiracy theorist, sent here with his up-voters to spew his views.
    He believes Murdoch is Jewish, and leading a media conspiracy, for flip sake.

    (Murdoch does have an nasty influence on the press, but it’s hardly a secret!)

  14. Leon Wolfeson

    No, it’s not that it’s not easy, it’s that actually solving problems puts politicians out of business.

    If there was a basic income and a tiny fraction of the current poverty, where would there be “scroungers” to rail against?

  15. damon

    Nigeria has 173 million people. It has big troubles with Boko Haram, but people who want to flee from that can go to another part of the country. They can’t just all leave for Europe.

  16. damon

    So you think we should run ferry services every day from the north African coast then?
    And we should be laying on immigration flights from west and east Africa too.
    That’s the logic of your position.
    Because your view is full of holes, you have to have a go at people who point those out.

  17. Guest

    Yes yes, nobody should be allowed to escape your allies.
    And of course no Brits must leave..unless they’re in the 1%, etc.

  18. Guest

    You’re making up nonsense again, claiming things I never said. You keep making up these ridiculous excuses for hating the Other.

    I agree with Mr. Farrage on the importance of the current asylum laws, go argue with him, as you personally – and nobody else – have a problem with the entire concept because it apparently involves the 99% crossing borders.

  19. Arturo Franks

    Might be difficult to get there?

  20. Arturo Franks

    Murdoch, Rothermere, Barclay bros, Lebedev are real, the Giant Lobsters are diversionary.

    Who pays their tax here?

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  22. Arturo Franks

    Does mean not throwing democracy out with the bath water. Farage is like Hitler, are we precluded from using his example in arguments about accountability I wonder?

  23. damon

    Leon, you’re shooting the messenger so to speak.
    I already told you I don’t care what happens with migration.
    I welcome it even, but I refuse to deny the disruption that it will cause.
    Just look at Tower Hamlets and their Mayor. That’s multiculturalism in action.
    The people doing all the vote rigging etc do so because its in their political culture.
    That’s how they do it in Bangladesh. I don’t care about it that much myself. I actually think it’s funny.
    If you were to get me to vote on it, I might go for open borders. But it would only be fair if it was all ways. When I was in Sri Lanka over the winter, no matter how nice the people were, (and they were), they really have a sense of a white person being such a foreigner that they could never live there as just an ordinary person.
    They don’t see why constantly asking white people ”where are you from” is a actually a bit rude. Try doing that to an Asian person in England and they might think it was none of your business.

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    No, to me it means starting with voting reform, PR.

    I also note that a basic income is not really a left/right thing in the UK, there’s support from elements across the spectrum – some of the left, the greens, some right wingers (like Tim Worstall – REAL right hardliners).

    We have different primary reasons, true (I focus on the reduction in poverty, Worstall focuses on ending benefit traps), but we do both support it.

  25. Guest

    No, I’m not shooting anyone. In any way.

    You’ve lied repeatedly, when your posts here show you care deeply – as you scream that crime happens because we’re not a monocult like North Korea, as you blame Tower Hamlets on allowing i.e. Jews in the country.

    You then as usual, call all Bsngladeshi people untermensch, saying they’re inferior and natural vote-rigging criminals. And then you boast you abuse rights you’d deny others, and how you take advantage of the inferior natives who are foolish enough to allow you in.

    (And who annoy you, still)

  26. Arturo Franks

    They’ve read The Plan, presumably you have not. Localism appealed to me 1966.

    They could find ways of making minimum income pay, sell our organs or whatever.

  27. damon

    Even though you’re just a troll disrupting this forum for laughs, you’re not a million miles away from a genuine Owen Jones type lefty. They are quite like your persona you have created here.
    The Tower Hamlets First party of the mayor, were just practising Bangladeshi style politics in England.

  28. Leon Wolfeson

    It pays by dramatically accelerating the velocity of money and getting rid of 90% of other benefits (it’d be more, but we’d still need HB for a period) and their burocracy.

  29. Arturo Franks

    Link? Sounds wrong to me.,

  30. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh sorry, you said “minimum income”. I was talking about a Basic Income. Not the same thing, of course.

  31. Arturo Franks

    Tax credits an advance. Small wonder the self styled anti Labour Left permanently ineffectual.

  32. Leon Wolfeson

    Minimum incomes are usually done with things like tax credits.

    Again, I support a Basic Income.

  33. Arturo Franks

    Obviously a trivial distinction in the current circumstances.

  34. Leon Wolfeson

    No, it’s not trivial at all. They work differently.

  35. Arturo Franks

    It is. Neither is going to happen this side of the last Wakes week.

  36. Leon Wolfeson

    You oppose them, I get it, you’re happy with poverty being high.

    I support them, unlike you.

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