Frontex/Francesco Malavolta: A boat approaches migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea
On paper, the UK government appears to be providing support, aid and care for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. The reality is something very different: negligence, a lack of respect and a denial of responsibility.
Despite our government’s claims of being a place of justice, freedom and equality, the British government is at the forefront of culpability when it comes to contributing to the refugee crisis. Britain has ordered it lawful to sell weapons to states with poor governance and human rights records (essentially what is causing so many to flee Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria).
“…rank hypocrisy [is] at the heart of UK foreign policy.
The government claims to stand for human rights and
democracy, but it is arming and supporting repressive
regimes and dictatorships around the world.”
– Campaign Against Arms Trade
The British Arms Trade grotesquely profits from and contributes to the violence and turmoil which has been devastating countries in the Middle East. In Yemen, the continual bombing has wreaked havoc on people’s lives, ripping families, culture and communities apart. This has led to one of the most significant humanitarian crises we’ve seen today. Ironically, NGO’s in these countries are sustained by donations from a wide array of British charities. So, whilst many of us scramble money and/or resources to help those in the firing line, should we look more closely at those who are firing. To avoid sounding naïve, I am not talking about trying to prevent extremist groups from killing people as I am conscious that sounds quite unrealistic and possibly a little delusional. I am saying we need to focus on the root of the problem instead of the aftermath of the devastation. To put it more simply, we need to be aware of the fact that whilst British people are supplying donations, the British arms trades are supplying bombs. So, (without sounding too idealistic) being collectively aware of what’s going on and signing petitions, this could help be a catalyst in preventing this resolution to continue. Without bombs, there is no bombing. In taking steps to sign petitions or to educate yourself, we could help make selling these weapons illegal.
Here is a petition which concerns this issue: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/326822 .
It has become all too familiar to hear of refugees drowning at sea. In this year alone, more than 500 refugees and migrants are known to have died in the Mediterranean sea (the actual number is estimated to be significantly higher). According to the M.V. Louise Michel rescue boat, “European states [are] instruct[ing] their Coastguard not to answer distress calls from ‘non-Europeans’ leaving desperate people to drift helplessly at sea.” The Greek government has abandoned over 1000 migrants at sea in rafts since the beginning of 2020 and the EU continue to strike controversial control deals with Libya. These deals aim to reduce migrant flow by higher investments into detention centres and paying the militias. The militias are the Libyan military force and have been previously accused of robbing, torturing and child trafficking. In the past, NGO’s would rescue drowning migrants and transport them to Europe. Today, the EU and UK fund the militias to catch migrants and take them back to these horrific camps. Banksy’s latest rescue-boat mission (the Louise Michel) aimed to rescue without prejudice. They stated how borders and nationality should not make a difference to what rights one has and how we treat each other.
The EU still doesn’t recognise Non-European citizens drowning as a matter of emergency. As they wait to be rescued on the edge of the European borders, Europe and the UK turn a blind eye. Claire Faggianelli, (an activist who prepared the Louise Michel), said the project should serve as ‘a wake-up call for Europe’.
The recent fires in camp Moria may have served as a wake-up call for many. In 2016, the EU blocked migrants off from accessible routes into their countries and created camps which soon became squalid, inhumane and overcrowded. Moria camp was one of these. It was originally built to hold 3,000 people, yet the fires left 12,000 homeless (of whom 4,000 were children). With a growing number of residents testing positive for corona virus, there was a lack of adequate action and a roaring sense of neglect, which finally turned into raging fires engulfing the camp.
“There is no question as to the cause of this fire:
‘It’s the years-long orchestration of human
suffering and violence produced by European
and Greek migration policies’…the ashes of
Moria are a testament to these policies of neglect.”
– Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF advisor on displacement
These fires were the culmination of years of silenced cries from the migrants. These people could no longer be ignored. Europe’s hardening approach to migrants was encapsulated with these foul detention camps. In the aftermath of the fires, ten EU countries agreed to take in the hundreds of unaccompanied children left homeless from Moria…the UK wasn’t one of them. This callous response from our government’s embodies its shocking approach to the migrant crisis as a whole.
From the news we are usually informed of the mass numbers of migrants who require refuge in Europe or the UK. Although this is informative and spreads awareness, it can also cause panic or create hostility due to an overwhelming sense of a ‘crisis’. Empathy is usually the initial reaction, yet constant news can swamp people and cause them to switch off, which can subsequently strip migrants of their individuality and paint them as a wash of figures.
Since the establishment of BREXIT, many studies demonstrate a spike of xenophobic hate crimes (which are still rising). Far right rhetoric encourages the scapegoating of many refugees for crime and economic struggles, instead of focusing on the billionaires who don’t pay tax. Just two months ago, Boris was outwardly considering changes to our asylum laws, with the aim to deter migrants. Britain steadily portrays the impression of helping with the refugee crisis yet does tremendously little compared to the rest of Europe. The UK’s shocking intake of migrants and refugees speaks volumes. Recently, 11 Syrian asylum seekers were left ‘hungry and homeless’ on the streets of Madrid, after the British government uprooted them – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/syrian-asylum-seekers-homeless-spain-home-office-a9705181.html .
We shouldn’t be leaving migrants to be shot on land, enclosed in camps and stranded at sea. Our government shouldn’t deny their own connection to this crisis. If you have the means to donate to any charities that provide respect, hope and safety for these people, please see the following:
- Choose love – allows people to buy essential items from their stores, which are then sent to refugees. Thousands of their volunteers give out food and medical supplies. Donations also go to therapists helping those traumatised, and in funding lawyers to help reunite displaced families. https://choose.love/collections/shelter-collection / https://choose.love/collections/merchandise
- Movement on the Ground – they are mainly working to restore morale and improve living conditions whilst increase connection for refugees with their host communities. Also helps in distributing funds to essential charities working alongside them. https://movementontheground.com/about-us
- The IRC works with those who are fleeing war, conflict, and natural disasters to help cure treatable conditions and ensure education during crises. They also help to prevent sexual violence perpetrated against refugee women and gives them their own money to help their independence. https://www.rescue-uk.org/how-help
These are a few charities that are fundamental in providing a lifeline for these people while our government refuses to. Obviously donating isn’t the only thing you can do to help, there are many petitions you can sign or ways of educating yourself about our government’s complicity. The problem is not the migrant crisis, the problem is inequality, neglect and a lack of support.