Sunday 17 November 2019

Horrific deaths of migrants should shine a light on a much larger issue


Editorial Comment

Shocking incidents like the recent tragic deaths of 39 desperate migrants in a truck in the UK have a way of shining a light on issues that many of us are often happy to ignore.

Like the awful image of a drowned toddler on a Turkish beach - which finally spurred world leaders to act on the Syrian refugee crisis - images of a red and white truck in an Essex car park have quickly come to symbolise a humanitarian crisis.

In the Essex case the victims - who lost their lives in the most horrific circumstances - will receive a measure of justice.

It is expected many of them will be identified and their remains returned to their grieving families. Meanwhile, members of the gangs responsible for their deaths - some of them at least - look likely be brought to justice and made answer for their deeds.

When it comes to international people smuggling the Essex case is unfortunately the exception in so far as they were found.

The 39 victims found in Essex may be in the headlines this week but they represent only a minuscule fraction of those who die every year in a desperate quest for a better life.

Due to the very nature of people smuggling and human trafficking exact statistics are hard to come by but basic figures have been compiled by the International Organization of Migration an inter-governmental agency involving 173 countries.

According to the IOM an average of 33,700 migrants a year have died on global migration routes since 2014. About 20,000 of those people died in the Mediterranean region alone.

With migrants paying as much as $30,000 to be smuggled into the West, people smuggling is now a $10 billion dollar a year global industry with a reach that stretches from Hanoi to Monaghan.

For those lucky enough to survive the journey it is often only the beginning of their suffering.

As they try to pay off the smugglers many will find themselves forced to work in brothels or in some form of indentured slavery.

Of course none of this should come as news to anyone. The realities of illegal migration are well known but generally ignored to maintain the status quo.

The global economy needs cheap labour to survive after all so the issue - a third world crisis in the heart of the first world - is conveniently swept under the carpet. That is, until something happens to shake people from their complacency,

But will this latest tragedy make any difference in the long run? Sadly past experience doesn't inspire much hope.

Who out there remembers August 2015 when 71 dead migrants - including a one-year-old baby - were found dead in a truck on the side of an Austrian Motorway? What about June 2000 when 58 dead migrants were found in a truck in Dover? Like the Essex case that truck had also passed through Zeebrugge in Belguim.

Then there were the 21 Chinese migrant labourers drowned picking cockles at Morecambe Bay in north west England.

Closer to home in 2001 eight dead migrants, four of them children, were found in a truck in Rosslare. After all those tragic cases we heard pledges to tackle the global crisis sadly, it seems very little has changed in the last 19 years.

Enniscorthy Guardian