While the world is looking towards Japan, holding its breath, it is imperative not to neglect everything else that is going on in the world right now. Most importantly, we should not forget to keep up to date with the situation in North Africa, where Tunisia and Egypt are going through crucial transformation processes and Lybia, Bahrain and Yemen are still engaged in protests and civil wars.
Since attention has shifted away from these states, the ruling dictators of Lybia and Bahrain have surreptitiously restored some of their power
by taking back cities from the rebels and crushing the protests with violence and intimidation. This has prompted more and more Lybians and migrant workers living in Lybia to leave the country and flee to the liberated Egypt and Tunisia. Tunisia and Egypt, unable to cope with this refugee crisis in their current state, try to funnel the displaced people towards Europe
. Since December thousands of people have arrived on the Italian island Lampedusa, waiting to be allowed to move on to other countries where they have friends and family and hope to find work.
So far the European nations have left it up to the Mediterranean states to deal with the refugees, a policy which has lead to scandalous humanitarian crises, such as the situation of refugees in Greece
. The affected countries have tried to deal with this burden in their own ways, by suggesting to build a wall
to keep out unwanted immigrants, funding questionable agencies such as Frontex
to do the dirty work, or settling for shady agreements with North African governments (for example: Italy had an agreement with Ghadafi to keep migrants bottled up in Lybia, which has now been suspended).
France has already warned that it won’t accept any of the migrant workers that don’t qualify as refugees. Yesterday Marine Le Pen, head of France’s right-wing party Front National and strong political contender, visited Lampedusa in order “to observe Europe’s frontline in illegal immigration”
. She ended up telling the immigrants that they were not welcome in Europe
, and suggested that they should not even be allowed to ever set foot on European soil. Instead of trying to find acceptable solutions to this crisis, Le Pen is eager to shift the responsibility away from Europe to nations that are even less equipped to deal with it. This ignorance and arrogance is dangerous and inhumane, and it is heartbreaking to see how this attitude has become more and more mainstream in Western Europe.
The truth is: political turmoil like what we’re seeing in North Africa right now will continue. Natural (and man-made) disasters like that of Japan will happen. Being a born European citizen is not a right, it is a privilege. Europe cannot look away. We have to be ready and face the problem head-on. One thing is for sure: National leaders claiming that multiculturalism has failed is not an answer
. Restricting immigrants’ lives
is not an answer. Populist right-wing rhetoric is not an answer. We all should ask ourselves how we want to live our lives: in solidarity or in shame?
michelle rogers "lampedusa" 2006