DAY 250 – Relativity

July 4th, 2018 § 0 comments

But what are  my pain, woes and griefs (I exclaimed) compared with those of countless others, smuggled, trafficked, beaten by the police of this or that increasingly Fascist country? Who will burn their children alive, or shoot their paramedics, simply because they belong to an inferior race? Or confine them in concentration camps, as seems to be the current plan in Hungary? A friend commented as Italy turned away a boatful of refugees that it made him ashamed to be European. I’d never thought of the reasons to be proud of being European (we have Socrates, Galileo, Michelangelo, Beethoven, and all that,  - or even Newton – but it doesn’t have anything to do with treatment of refugees who were very likely being tortured at the same time as the Sistine Chapel was being painted).

No, comrades, we have to be proud, if anything, of being human, an amazing thing when you think of some of the amazing human beings you know – I could go back to David Bowie, or Martin Luther King, or my friends X, Y and Z who are even now fighting fearlessly on behalf of the dispossessed. Think of them, and try not to despair, if you . Look at the lady next to you on the 41 bus; trying to maintain a tolerable relationship with her three-year old son. A driwnedhuman being, if ever I saw one, even if she isn’t an asylum-seeker or an asylum law barrister. Any cook, as Lenin said, should be able to run the country (How did I stray into quotes from Lenin? And what a lot of terrific ones there are! They’re enough to put you in good heart even when you’re at your most despairing.) Look at Dido, who made the dreadful mistake of falling for a man who lured her with his tall tales, and then had no choice but – to be laid in earth…

On Jone 29th MSF (who aren’t given to being sensationalist) summed the situation up as follows:—

London/Amsterdam: “European governments must come to their senses and end policies which trap extremely vulnerable people in Libya or leave them to die at sea, said the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) following the conclusions of yesterday’s talks at the EU summit.

Last week was the deadliest so far this year on the Mediterranean, as at least 220 people drowned. These were avoidable tragedies. European Governments have blocked non-governmental search and rescue operations, while turning over responsibility for rescues to the Libyan coastguard. European governments are financing, training and equipping the Libyan coastguard

libya

 

`The same European governments that were just a few months ago strongly condemning reports of slave markets in Libya, seem today to have no hesitation in escalating policies that will increase the suffering of people trapped there. People whose only ‘crime’ is that they flee conflict, violence or poverty.

“EU member states are abdicating their responsibilities to save lives and deliberately condemning vulnerable people to be trapped in Libya, or die at sea” said Karline Kleijer, MSF head of emergencies “They do this fully aware of the extreme violence and abuses that refugees and migrants suffer in Libya.”

“MSF urges European governments to show some basic decency and remember that we are talking about human lives and human suffering. They can start by committing to search and rescue and facilitate swift disembarkation in places of safety, this does not mean Libya”.

People trapped in Libyan detention centres are largely without any assistance, as access for international humanitarian organisations including MSF and the UN is severely limited. This affects the ability to monitor and provide protection, however over the last month MSF has conducted over 3,300 medical consultations in four detention centres. Medical teams found that the main health issues are linked to poor living conditions, including overcrowding, and lack of sufficient water or sanitation.

Meanwhile despite the overwhelming need for search and rescue, an orchestrated campaign against non-governmental search and rescue operations is reaching breaking point. Independent search and rescue missions are increasingly obstructed from carrying out rescues in international waters and are denied access to local ports. This weekend the Aquarius was one of the only three dedicated search and rescue vessels in the Central Mediterranean.

“Saving lives at sea is not a crime” continued Kleijer. “Yet, the message from European governments is loud and clear: humanitarian assistance is not welcome. Scapegoating NGOs is a tactic to distract from the real issues: lack of solidarity or vision in the EU, and a broken asylum system. These actions block and obstruct us from doing the work EU governments are failing to do, all the while de-humanising people in need. Any deaths caused by this are now at their hands.”

The heads of governments in Europe seem to be finally falling into two categories: the harshly repressive and the openly racist. There is opposition, but it only comes from grassroots activists, and from organisations like MSF who are committed by their very existence (the Hippocratic oath?) to saving lives. No such oath binds politicians, who willingly consign any number of unknown souls to death by water, or confinement and torture.

 

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