Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Monday, April 27, 2015

Migrant deaths on the Mediterranean

The BBC Arabic had a discussion about migrants from Africa and the Middle East who cross the Mediterranean on boats. A lot of these boats have sunk recently, and many migrants are drowning.

The report describes that a lot of these migrants are trying to escape the hell of their own countries to the Heaven they imagine in Europe.

Here is footage of such a migrant boat taken by the Italian coast guard (it's usually Italy that these boats are trying to reach):

In 2015 so far, 1750 migrants have died in such a way, according to UN and International Migration Organization statistics:

See, you can read Arabic, too!

And, there was a big disaster I think last week when maybe over 700 died.

Apparently in some of these cases, the Italian military will carry the coffins:

And they have a funeral with relatives, clergy, and politicians all mixed together:

And a harpist and his instrument is brought in:

And there's a military salute:

And over in Brussels, the political leaders of the European Union had a moment of silence:

Here's an image of people whose boat landed safely. I didn't catch if these migrants came with or without papers, but any case, the doctors and police are on hand to meet them:

And there were all these people standing there, waiting to give the newcomers flowers of welcome. That kind of made me tear up.

After this footage, the BBC Arabic had its discussion. First, they talked to a man from Sudan called 'Ahmed' who now lives in Britain. He left Sudan because the government is so bad. He first went to Libya; and from there went to the coast. Then finally through contacts he got a trip over to Italy, and from there to France. He was smuggled in secretly. He sitting in a little cage, or something, he was completely hidden, for five weeks during journey. He says he feels like he completely lost his human identity during that time. He never saw the sun, and didn't know it had been five weeks until he finally was able to leave his hiding place. Ahmed did not want his identity made known, so the BBC Arabic blurred his face. But he was wearing a suit and tie. 

Then they talked to a man who is of Arab descent, but must be an Italian citizen, and is in fact in the Italian parliament. He name is Khaled Showky. 

They asked him: why are some Europeans, especially extreme right political parties, so scared of illegal immigration?

And Mr. Showky said: Of course, that fear is due to terrorism and due to the violence in Libya today. And of course the economic situation in Europe is not so good right now. And there's also the challenge of integration in Europe. This is something that all of Europe has to cooperate on. Because a single country like Italy cannot handle the situation all on its own, both when it comes to rescuing migrants from drowning, and when it comes to the politics of integration.

Everyone listening intently to Mr. Showky:

One of the BBC Arabic anchors asked: Can a dramatic story like what we just heard from Ahmed, about his trip from Sudan to Britain, can that help people understand what these migrants are going through?

And Mr. Showky said: We all know stories like Ahmed's, we've all heard stories about refugees. We talk about it every day. This information is out there. But unfortunately there are political movements that act against people's conscience and this is a big challenge facing Europe today and all of Europe's leaders. There is not clear agreement between the values that Europe holds, values of humanity, and the reality of the political practices.

So then they turned back to 'Ahmed' from Sudan and asked him: Europe, in light of recent tragedies, has decided to increase the amount of coast guard money they spend, and the amount of money they will spend to rescue migrants at sea. Do you think that this is enough?

Ahmed: I don't think this will be enough, because the amount of migrants and refugees leaving their countries every day is huge. I don't think a single country like Italy can deal with it. It needs more work from all the countries, and actually it needs work from the countries that are producing the migrants. If we can just improve the situation inside these countries, then we people will not have to leave in the first place. I mean, people want to stay in their countries.

Then Mona, the lady in the light blue silk blouse, asked Ahmed: You, a person who made the journey from Sudan to Britain: do you understand from where people's fears about illegal immigration are coming from?

Ahmed: Yes, I do and I respect them. I do put myself in their shoes, because all people care about their future and their countries. When there's a big wave of migrants coming towards you, in addition to all the fears about contagious diseases they might bring and the fears that they are linked to terrorist and extremist groups, I believe that Europe's leaders have  a right to be worried about their countries and to want to take care of that. But at the same time, I cannot force a person who is living miserably in his home country to expect death at the sea (I think that's what his last sentence was).

So then they went back to Mr. Showky in Italy and asked him: is the general population and civil society in Europe scared of illegal immigrants?

Mr. Showky: We see that civil society and European NGOs have great sympathy for migrants. Like here in Italy, even the Vatican and church has been urging everyone to provide help to the immigrants. But this is a role that cannot be limited to just civil society and NGOs. I think that Arab leaders and the leaders in Libya need to as soon as possible find a political solution to their problems because the drownings happening on the Mediterranean are also their responsibility, and we have to find a solution not just for the sake of stopping illegal immigration to Europe, but also for the sake of getting to the roots of the problems and actually making things right. Today in Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan - all these countries have problems and this is the root of what is happening, and we need to fix things at their source.

Then they turned back to Ahmed for one last question: What are your goals now?

Ahmed: My goals are to return to my country and work there. Because I am one of the people who can do something to improve the situation in Sudan. I am a person who is educated. I have graduate degrees, and I ought to be able to serve my land.

For the full program, which was the first quarter hour of a longer show on the BBC Arabic called 'Extra', click on the YouTube link here.

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