On a daily basis migrants from Libya and Syria attempt to traverse the Mediterranean Sea in boats which are only 20 metres long and made of flimsy wood. The day before I originally posted this blog, 40 people died getting trapped in the water-logged hold of their boat. Apparently the victims inhaled fumes from fuel after the boat took on water in the hold. Commander Massimo Tozzi, speaking from his Italian navy ship, said that when his men boarded the migrant boat they found the dead in the hold “immersed in water, fuel and human excrement.” (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, August 25, 2015)
Why would anyone leave their home and neighborhood to make one of the world’s most dangerous crossings? The reason is war. These people are fleeing a catastrophe. They have no choice. They can not remain in their home without facing imminent threats of roadside car bombs, sniper bullets, drone missile attacks, hand to hand combat, sexual assault and rape, and arrest and torture. This is why people scramble to board overcrowded fishing boats and cross shark infested waters: it is not because they are looking to take advantage of European job markets, schools, and hospitals.
The AP has reported that the number of migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year is approaching a quarter of a million. Speaking as a concerned citizen of the United States, I find it shameful that the world’s most powerful navy is not doing more to aid these refugees. The size and magnitude of the U.S. navy carriers alone could provide shelter to tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war. If we truly are a humanitarian force -as the commercials champion- we have a moral obligation to not only rescue these people when things go drastically wrong but to provide them with a first class escort to freedom.
In World War II millions of refugees in Western and Eastern Europe were forced to abandon their homes and flee the Nazis. Once they reached the border, where could they go next? Who would take them in? It is nauseating to consider how often the United States of America turned its back on these refugees in their time of crisis.
For nearly a decade these people have been under the thumb of sadistic warmongers, bloodthirsty mercenaries, and religious fanatics. The children of Libya and Syria deserve far better than this. After-all, history remembers the rejection of Jewish refugees. Today we have an opportunity to make amends. In conjunction with our European partners, we can vow to rescue and liberate every single migrant who attempts to cross the Mediterranean.