The painful odyssey of thousands of immigrants

A voyage around the Mediterranean reveals a claustrophobic & inhospitable face of Europe …

2013-12-17

The Mediterranean Sea, home of the olive tree, bellybutton of the ancient world, commercial crossroad between East and West, meeting point of people and cultures but also of military conflicts, is connected in our memory with the Journey of Odysseus, who had been wandering for ten years between Troy and the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) before finally reaching Ithaca. While Odysseus was fortunate enough to return home, there are thousands of immigrants from African and Asiatic countries who quit their homelands hoping for the survival of themselves and their people left behind, only to become objects of exploitation, living under deplorable conditions and facing famine, misery and death every single day…

During the last decade seven thousand illegal immigrants have died horrible deaths in the waters of the Mediterranean, a tragedy that climaxed when the shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa took the lives of hundreds of African men, women and children.

Victims of colonialism and imperialism, these tragic figures from the Third World desperately searching for a better fate in the Western and European capitalist « paradises », face total indifference from EU bodies as well as the hatred of many common people who are carried away by ideologies leading them to dark and dangerous paths; people who forget the fact that immigration is caused by the conflict of interests between great powers and the development gap among industrialized and underdeveloped countries, causing unbalanced distribution of social wealth among nations and people.

This is how the Odyssey of the immigrants from Africa who reach the coasts of southern Europe almost every day is described by the famous Swiss author J. Ziegler: «From the vast lands of black Africa, an enormous crowd of wanderers spill out into Sahara. Their dream is to reach the Mediterranean coast and afterwards Europe. Many souls are lost in the strait of Gibraltar. They set off on junk trucks, piled up in hundreds … The trucks travel for three or four days and at this part of the journey their human cargo starts to agonize. Along the roadsides lay pits full of corpses… In May 2001, a Touareg caravan described, north of Tenere, 141 corpses, 60 of them being Nigerians and the rest from Ghana, Cameroun, Niger and Gols Coast»[1].

Unfortunately, EU does not seem willing to face promptly this huge issue and is limited to keeping up pretences, as it became obvious at the visit of its President Mr. Barroso to the island of Lampedusa in order to express his support to the inhabitants. Under their jeers, he stammered a few minced words, without however mentioning the Schengen Agreement, tailored to the interests of the EU core countries, while south European countries are left to handle by themselves the dozens of thousands of immigrants who arrive to the coasts of Greece, Spain and Italy every day, piled up in hundreds in the slave traders’ old tubs, since this notorious agreement does not allow to send immigrants to another EU country.

It is a fact that the absorption capacity of immigrants in EU is limited, especially in the southern European countries due to the financial crisis. However, the solution is not indifference but distribution of immigrants on the basis of each country’s population and financial dynamic and, above all, supply of development aid to the countries of immigration origin, a basic condition for effective resolution of the problem.

The contemporary methods to protect European frontiers against the wave of immigration far from effectively protecting European citizens, harm what is left of the celebrated Western liberal democracy, favoring racist paranoia about superior and inferior races and triggering the lurking phantom of fascism and Nazism. It is high time the «successful» West and the «haves» had started to share their gains and financial «achievement» with the « have-nots » «damned of the earth», or else their success will be proven self-destructive …

[1] Jean Ziegler, Privatisation of the world and new global rulers, Sinchronoi-orizontes, Thessaloniki 2004
* This text is based on articles of Mr. Z. Papadimitriou, emeritus professor at the Law School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Mr. G. Stamkos, author, published in TVXS in November 2013.

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