Tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea
In last month’s ‘Message From The Bridge’ I commented on how the impending General Election was helping to give the issue of the UK’s future defence policy and defence spending levels an increased profile. The need to win over undecided voters always creates additional pressure on party leaders and other prominent politicians to “come off the fence” and state their positions clearly on key affairs of state.
And so it was that a political row developed over the root causes of the continuing humanitarian tragedy of migrants dying en route from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to the supposed safety of Europe, with Labour’s Ed Milliband seeking to pin the blame on leaders such as David Cameron for failing to properly handle the aftermath of the revolution in Libya which deposed Colonel Gaddafi back in 2011.
The growing scale of the tragedy, as evidenced by hundreds of deaths in mid- April, has placed all European leaders in the spotlight and led to concerted calls for action by the European Union after the shameful scaling back in autumn last year of ‘Operation Mare Nostrum’ – the Italian Government’s attempt to more successfully patrol migrant movements and, where necessary, deploy rescue services in the Mediterranean Sea.
In ‘Message From The Bridge’ in the February 2015 issue of Sea Breezes, we highlighted this awful humanitarian tragedy. Many others in the industry have also been appalled at how the merchant shipping sector, acting to save lives at sea, has at times borne more responsibility for dealing with the tragedy than most of the member states in the European Union.
Hopefully this might change following agreement by EU member states in late April to strengthen the EU’s efforts. This agreement included a more collegiate approach to dealing with the ongoing challenge of migrants seeking to enter Europe, where previously Mediterranean states such as Italy, Greece and Malta have largely been left to ‘get on with it’, despite the obvious stress that the economies and social fabric of those countries have been under in recent times.
Whether or not consensus can be achieved in how best to handle the crisis, it is at least reassuring that the scale of the challenge is being taken seriously and that European leaders are being asked to ‘step up to the mark’ instead of being allowed simply to forget or at best ignore the ongoing tragedy taking place daily in the Mediterranean Sea.HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR