Help for stranded migrants a welcome step - GulfToday

Help for stranded migrants a welcome step


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s announcement that six European Union (EU) countries had agreed to take in some 150 migrants from a rescue ship that Italy had blocked from docking is a welcome development that has helped resolve the latest standoff over immigration to Europe across the Mediterranean.

The migrants were in huge distress as they have been stranded on the Spanish charity ship “Open Arms” since it picked them up off Libya in early August, and Rome’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow them to disembark.

It is good to note that the migrants will be shared out among France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg, as pointed out by Conte in an open letter to Salvini.

Just last week, Hollywood star Richard Gere had visited the “Open Arms” and urged the Italian government to stop “demonising people” and allow the migrants  to disembark.

Many of the migrants, mainly from Africa, have been suffering from very high levels of post-traumatic stress and anxiety over their future.

The United Nations refugee agency has been appealing to European governments to urgently allow in more than 500 people rescued in the Mediterranean but who remain stranded at sea as countries bicker over who should accept them.

Another rescue ship, the “Ocean Viking,” operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), is also looking for a port to dock with more than 350 migrants on board.

When the image of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy, rattled collective human conscience and made global headlines after he drowned on Sept.2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, it was expected that the approach of governments and people towards refugees and migrants would turn more humane.

Unfortunately, that has not turned out to be the case.

Shocking images of a drowned Salvadoran migrant and his two-year-old daughter who died while trying to cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico to the United States emerged recently,  raising questions whether humanity as a whole has turned compassion-deficient.

The image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande, will haunt the conscience of all considerate human beings for years to come.

Talking specifically about victimisation of migrants and refugees attempting to cross through Libya en route to Europe, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had earlier indicated that abuses against migrants start as soon as they cross the border into Libya and continue throughout the journey to the north coast.

The allegations of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment implicate many different parties.

Migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.

Collective and effective global measures to tackle the root causes of displacements are essential. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.

With the UN refugee agency indicating that a record 71 million people have now been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the world community cannot anymore afford to turn a blind eye to the plight of migrants. Migrants are human too.

As well stated by Elisabetta Trenta, a Five Star Movement (M5S) party member in Italy, “We must never forget that behind the polemics of the past few days, there are children and young people who suffered violence and abuse of all types. Politics must never lose sight of humanity.”

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