Why does it take the deaths of 900 people for us to pay attention to asylum seekers? 

being humanThe headlines this morning were all about “EU ministers meet for talks” and “pressure on politicians” after an estimated 900 people drowned between Libya and Italy. Some other commentators focused on anti-immigrant rhetoric being responsible for the deaths, yet the common theme was that almost no news outlet talked about the people who perished as human beings – as people with families, a mind, a past, and now no future – or about the reasons why they were making their way to Europe in the first place.

Against this backdrop then, Amnesty International seem like a lone voice in the wilderness. Their SOS Europe campaign puts forward the voices of migrants, particularly those people who have travelled across the Mediterranean to escape war or persecution at home. They’re making some very simple calls in the campaign including cross-European investment in search and rescue resources and a commitment to safe passage into Europe for asylum seekers. Check it out here.

Whilst Amnesty’s campaign is welcome and important, we’ve also got to wake up to two facts;

  1. We’re too busy concentrating on the symptoms to see the causes of the problem. The problem being that European asylum and immigration rules are stopping people from safely escaping persecution whilst the foreign policy of many European governments is exacerbating that persecution.
  2. It’s only going to get worse. Geo-politics and simple climate science give an easy prediction that war, poverty and the fight for resources is going to result in many more people moving to safer ground. Climate change is already causing the movement of hundreds of thousands of people off land that can no longer sustain them, and making conflict over resources an ever present and growing problem. War, including wars funded, armed and supported by the UK and other European countries is only going to worsen that situation.

For more on the impacts of climate change and what we can do, check out Naomi Klein’s latest book This Changes Everything.

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