Saturday 24 September 2016

Migrants owed more than watery graves

Published 07/08/2015 | 02:30

A coffin containing the body of an unidentified migrant is carried off LE Niamh in Palermo
A coffin containing the body of an unidentified migrant is carried off LE Niamh in Palermo

The cries of help from the Developing World are too often inaudible, despair doesn't always find its voice let alone an ear.

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Be that as it may, the migrants' tragedy in the Mediterranean screams for action.

It would be easy to say that whatever drives a pregnant mother to gamble with her life - and that of her family - by risking all in a floating tomb, has to be demonic.

But that would be facile. The conflicts that have left 60 million migrants in disastrous circumstances around our planet are practically all man made.

The latest harrowing scenes to which the LÉ Niamh bore witness, and in which some 200 people drowned, were heart wrenching. Having to make life or death choices to rescue terrorised people who had never even seen the sea, let alone swam in it, seems beyond imagining.

The crew of the LÉ Niamh did an incredible job, as had the crew of the LÉ Eithne before them.

The rescue ships must continue to patrol the area but vital as they are, they will not turn back the human tide driven out by war and persecution.

As a sop to the West, Colonel Gadaffi policed an invisible wall in Libya which could not be breached by fleeing refugees. Since his demise, the gates have been open and the terrorised and traumatised have flooded through.

As always in history, each war produces a new wave of misery. Thus from the invasion of Iraq, to the War on Terror, to five more years of war in Syria - from all this we have seen the birth of Isil, and the growth of al-Qa'ida. The only enduring certainty is that conflict begets more conflicts and the civilians caught in the crossfire pay the price. In Syria alone, 7.6 million people have fled their homes. Now some of these unfortunate people are bringing their tragedies to our shores. The response of the international community has been shameful. We must be able to offer more than a watery grave. The UN Security Council passes lofty resolutions but they are rendered hollow by a lack of will to follow through.

As a neutral country with a distinguished reputation in the Developing World, Ireland has a moral responsibility to demand more. The conscience of the UN has been in hibernation as Russia, China, and the West allow selfish interest to blind them to the global picture.

It is time for an awakening.

Irish Independent

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