No one can remain unaffected by the human catastrophe in which hundreds of men, women and children perish as they flee poverty and war. The tragedy continues on a daily basis - this time it was off the coast of Malta but where will it be in the future? Will it be Syrians still.
Maybe Egyptians? And will it always be Africans?
In response to "never again" - on which we all agree - answers to the problem vary and in the end we give none. Emotion overcomes some, others anger. Reason however must still be part and parcel of our reply.
The European Commission would like a "wide ranging rescue operation". Would this be enough given this phenomenon which will only continue to grow? Eyewitness reports by those rescuing the shipwrecked all agree: as soon as the refugees see a European ship they jump into the water because they know that in Europe we spontaneously help anyone in distress because we are legally obliged to do so and that this is a sailor's duty. And so wouldn't a rescue operation be just one more sign of encouragement to take to the sea in whatever circumstance in order to escape
hell to reach the safety of wealthy Europe?
What should we do?
We certainly shouldn't create another "committee", a European instance that would relieve our conscience but which would settle nothing. We certainly should do everything we can to foil those who make illegal immigration their trade with all the means at our disposal, we should tackle
those who tolerate or facilitate it, and help those who counter it head on. The President of the Italian Council speaks of a "military-humanitarian" operation".
Europe and its Member States have the means as long as they do not give in just to compassion. Help given to the countries of origin and passengers should be conditioned more according to a real effort to counter unscrupulous smugglers. Will the European Union be obliged to go further and use force including in the ports of origin?
Although we can never prevent a mother or father from trying by all possible means to offer a better future to their children as they flee untenable situations, there is already a range of means available to convince them to do so according to a legal path. In the name of "the duty to protect", on which the international community increasingly prides itself, wouldn't it be legitimate for Europe, now that it has become the leading continent in terms of immigration, to police its borders and use every possible means available so that it can avoid a situation in which it simply fishes out the dead from the sea off its coasts? In other words can it not intervene at the point of departure of these suicide boats?
The European Union cannot simply improve its maritime surveillance, increase Frontex staff, the European border agency that is far from the borders in question or try to step up competences that are difficult to implement. Could it not design a military/civilian operation like the one it successfully implemented against piracy off the coast of Somalia? Could it not dismantle the network of smugglers and illegal employers who reduce these unfortunate people to slavery as they embark on unseaworthy vessels en route for the European Eldorado?
A true strategy includes all of Europe and not just the 10 Member States which host 90% of the asylum seekers. The latter must combine a mix of humanitarian aid and support to development; however it must not neglect the fight to counter the employers of illegal labour and in a second phase counter their suppliers and their accomplices.