More than 300 people are feared dead in the waters of Mediterranean, since last Thursday's tragic boat accident near the Italian island of Lampedusa. The boat that carried immigrants from the African continent seeking a better future in Europe, was capsized when all the people aboard moved to one side to avoid a fire.
The fire was set to a piece of material to try and attract the attention of passing ships, only to spread to the rest of the boat. The 20m (66ft) boat carrying some 500 people, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, was approaching Lampedusa when it began taking on water and its motor stopped working (BBC News).
This is only the latest migrant related tragedy that takes place in Europe's territory, but surely it won't be the last one. At least not until European leaders act on the issue decisively. It is not a matter that should be dealt solely by Italy, as these migrants are leaving their countries to enter Europe for a better life, hoping to reach the more affluent regions of our continent.
Europe must act on this collectively and support the bordering nations like Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece. It is a European problem and all EU nations must come together for a solution. But they may have to take some very critical decisions to come to one.
The immigrants are coming to Europe because there is civil war, radical militant groups acting in the region resulting in instability and extreme poverty, combined with lack of opportunities and jobs. As long as there is great inequality in the world's population living standards, there will be always a migration flow from the poorer nations to the richer.
Western Culture promotes itself a promised land
Western nations dominate culturally, financially and by trade the poorer regions of the world. When young people from these regions watch films or various product advertisements, that portray life in Europe and the West as ideal, it is impossible not to seek an opportunity to escape to these lands. Whereas they have very few opportunities in their own countries, there will be always an ever increasing number of migrants that want to enter Europe.
The problem is that often the only way to reach the "promise land" is by illegal migration that brings them to the mercy of human traffickers, who are making profit out of human misery and desperation. These people are exploiting the modern day slaves, by often charging per head to carry people across the Mediterranean in their boats.
The migrants odyssey does not end here though. Even if they do manage to reach Europe, they will again face exploitation by people who employ them to work for nothing. They will face discrimination in an ever intolerant and xenophobic continent. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. Sadly the migrants are coming to Europe, because there are people here that want their cheap labor.
Local Unemployment Agencies outside the EU could be a solution
Ideally if Europe really wanted to deal with the issue effectively, it should create either jobs in the countries of origins of the illegal immigrants, or agencies that will attract the right amount of migrants with the right skills. In other words Europe should set up employment agencies in Africa and other regions, once of course it manages to create a common immigration policy.
In that way immigrants will come into Europe through a legal and acceptable way, not being stacked like animals on a boat or a truck, facing an uncertain future and even death. Intense and further cooperation with transitioning nations for the immigrants to prosecute any traffickers, or clamping down on companies that employ and exploit illegal immigrants can also offer some solutions to the problem.
But because Europe does not always have the best relations with these countries, or because of the instability in the greater region, investing to create job positions there can be difficult to achieve. Without a common immigration policy it is hard to create EU employment offices, though some steps have been taken to that direction is some countries.
Ending the instability and poverty in all regions across the globe is the obvious solution, but to achieve that Europe can not act on its own. All developed nations must be part of such effort under the coordination of the UN.
The problem here is how to achieve more harmonious and equal living standards for all people in the planet, when the very economic model that Europe and the West are pursuing, often needs global inequality in order to exploit certain regions and its people.
Political, ideological or religious clashes also play a role in preventing certain regions being lifted out of poverty. Europe is unable to allow all immigrants that seek a better future in its borders, especially now that it experiences itself an economic, political and social crisis that results in high unemployment and instability.
Failed integration propels the far right
In many countries far right groups have gained popularity because of the inability of the mainstream political parties, to address effectively the issue of immigration and find solutions to their nation's economic woes. As long as Europe is unable to speak with one voice and convince other rich nations to join in the fight against global poverty and instability, tragedies like that of Lampedusa will become a common occurrence in the future.
Edited by: Cherian Grundmann
Image source: Hein de Haas