THIS week the UN announced that 300 migrants had drowned after being forced into unseaworthy boats in a desperate attempt to escape the wars and poverty of North Africa by attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Italy.
This is just the latest of the crimes of mass murder in the Mediterranean of desperate migrants fleeing the wars and destabilisation of the region by world imperialism in its violent quest for control.
The real criminals, responsible for this barbaric condemnation of men, women and children to death by drowning, sit in the parliaments of Europe and Britain.
In 2013, another tragedy took place off the coast of Lampedusa when 366 migrants fleeing war-torn Libya and surrounding countries were drowned in similar circumstances.
This tragedy forced the Italian government to launch operation Mare Nostrum.
This operation consisted of ships of the Italian navy patrolling the Mediterranean for ships in trouble and effecting rescue where necessary.
This search and rescue operation, which was successful in cutting down the number of drownings, was funded by the European Commission to the tune of £24 million.
This humanitarian exercise was brought to an abrupt end a year later, when in October 2014, the EU, supported by the UK government, announced it would no longer provide funds for the operation.
In a statement agreed by European interior ministers – including the Tories’ Theresa May – it was stated that the operation, which had saved the lives of 200,000 people, was being halted because it was acting as a ‘pull factor’ for immigrants.
Before Mare Nostrum, more than 3,500 lives had been lost attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
According to May and her fellow ministers, search and rescue missions are ‘encouraging people to make dangerous crossings in the expectation of rescue’.
Try telling that to the 300 people who drowned this week. Presumably, they only have themselves to blame for not heeding May’s ‘humanitarian’ attempt to dissuade them from trying to flee the wars inspired and stoked by US imperialism and its European allies.
In the words of Amnesty International: ‘The vague prospect of rescue has never been the incentive. War, poverty and persecution are what make desperate people take terrible risks. History will judge this decision as unforgiveable.’
One third of those murdered in the Mediterranean this week are believed to be from Syria, a previously stable country from which no one fled across the sea to escape until imperialism started its brutal campaign to overthrow the government.
Similarly with Libya, which has been torn apart and reduced to lawlessness since the overthrow of Gadaffi.
These are not the ‘economic migrants’ that the bourgeois press love to demonise; they are the victims of imperialist slaughter carried out in the name of securing the world’s resources for exploitation by the capitalist class.
When they threaten to become a burden by fleeing to Europe, the answer is to let them die.
This was made clear by the decision to replace search and rescue with the EU’s operation Trident which is focused on border protection – patrolling the immediate coastlines of Europe with a small number of boats with the intention of turning back vessels carrying migrants – not rescue.
A further twist to this murderous policy was spelt out by the former French interior minister, Brice-Hortefeuse, who said of the 2013 tragedy that it called for an ‘immediate response: our countries social policies must be made less attractive’.
This lie, much echoed in the UK by Tory ministers, that people risk almost certain death just because of welfare benefits in Europe is an attempt to exploit the deaths of hundreds of thousands to justify the smashing of all welfare provision throughout the EU and UK.
In this way, it can be seen that the plight of these victims of imperialism is inseparable from the struggle of the working class of Europe.
The only future for all lies in putting an end to barbaric imperialism through the victory of the world socialist revolution.