1505 Selective Indignation?

The first quarter of 2015 has been marked by disasters in the Mediterranean Sea.  Several vessels carrying migrants looking for a better future sunk with barely any survivors. The number of casualties is surging and according to International Organization for Migration (IOM), the death toll is already 30 times higher than in the same period last year.[1] Unfortunately, images of such disasters in the Mediterranean Sea have been around since the early 2000s.


The standard policy response to these crises over the years from the EU and its member states has been to strengthen border controls. Once more, the European Unions’ state leaders have rushed to take action, and the 10 point plan of the EU to deal with the crisis focuses AGAIN primarily on stepping up border security, while little or no attention is given to the root and actual causes of migration such as political and humanitarian crises, poverty and inequality.  In the past, increased border security has led to diversification of migration routes and tactics by smugglers and these measures have not stemmed migration. So more attention should go to comprehensive policies that attack poverty and unbalanced trade relations as well as increasing efforts towards peacebuilding, and the re-building  of economies and societies.


In the aftermath of the shipwrecks near Lampedusa in 2013 AEFJN[2] also called EU-policymakers to put more attention to the actual causes of migration: political crises, violence, hunger, rampant poverty, climate change, economic hardship, lack of economic opportunities and rising inequality. For instance the economic model promoted by donors and solidified in trade agreements impose economic governance on African countries that maintains the continent in its position of a provider of tropical products for industrial markets and a supplier of raw materials for European industries. Moreover, the trade agreements often facilitate the flooding of African markets by cheap subsidized European agricultural products squeezing local food producers, while trade agreements prevent governments from keeping raw materials at home for transformation, creating value addition at home and supporting infant industries.


We share the indignation of European leaders regarding the latest disaster in the Mediterranean; however, we sincerely hope that they will have the same indignation when analyzing their economic policies towards developing countries. For instance the lax proposal, based on a voluntary framework adopted by the INTA committee of the European Parliament on conflict minerals is not likely to break the link between conflict and mineral extraction, which have caused millions of refugees in Africa. In DRC the continuing insecurity is driving many out of the eastern region, while minerals from that region continue to feed in the supply chains of European companies. More ambition is needed to clean up company supply chain and a binding legislation should be in place. The same holds for agricultural supply chains: Western companies are acquiring large tracts of African land in order to supply agricultural commodities for industrial markets; this is displacing rural communities in Africa yet adding to the problem of forced migration.


Gino Brunswijck

AEFJN Policy Officer

[2] http://www.aefjn.be/index.php/spirituality/articles/escaping-from-economic-injustice.html

Go back