EU leaders aim to deploy deadly force to smash the so-called “human “smuggling” and trafficking” networks that operate out of Libya. There will be “collateral damage” of killed or injured adults and children. European politicians repeatedly liken the activities of transporting migrants to a modern slave trade. What is happening in the Mediterranean today does not even remotely resemble a slave trade. Those embarking on the risky journey to Europe want to leave their home countries. And if they were free to do so, they would be taking advantage of the safe flights that budget airlines operate between Africa and Europe at a tiny fraction of the cost of the extraordinarily dangerous sea passage.
For sure some migrants have been held in terrifying conditions. Some die en route, some survive only to be exploited and abused at the point of destination. But many survive to secure at least a chance of accessing rights, protection, family reunion, education, work, freedom from persecution and so on. The announced intention to use military force is not a noble humanitarian stand against people being enslaved by ruthless criminals. Let’s dismantle the barriers to the free movement of people in the same way they have been removed for the wealthy. Throughout Europe, xenophobic and racist parties shape the agenda, preying on people’s ignorance and fear. Sadly, the fact is that people believe the hysteria about immigrants settling next door and stealing jobs than about innocent children drowning at sea. For a socialist, every life is precious and every person a fellow worker.
The present plight of the Rohingya boat people demonstrates what happens when a wealthy nation such as Australia uses war-ships to turn away refugees. The boats head for elsewhere and those poorer neighbouring nations cite Australia’s example and follow its lead by denying entry and sanctuary.
Moving to different lands in order to better oneself is as old as humanity. So is fleeing persecution. The answer for the boat people is global stability and economic prosperity, which only socialism can guarantee. But the short-term answer is to permit entry and allow resettlement so that people do not need to die at sea. For socialists, every life is precious.