Migrant boat tragedy: ‘EU countries can find money for warfare but not to rescue people’
RT:The EU has called for an emergency summit over the deaths of illegal immigrants trying to get into Europe. What do you think might come out of that?
Jan Oberg: I really don’t know but it has to lead to some serious self-reflection. EU countries, many of which are NATO countries, always can find money for warfare and they can’t find the money to rescue the people running away from the war zones where the European countries are involved. The refugees who just capsized [on Sunday] are from Syria and Libya, two of the places where we have been engaged all the time. Instead of solving conflicts we have made them worse. So my solution is to criminalize the arms trade and abolish war and you will solve most of the refugee problem. Why? Because behind almost every refugee there is an arms trader.
RT:Other 400 people drowned just a few days ago, yet hundreds more still attempt to cross the Mediterranean, why are they so willing to risk their lives?
JO: Because warfare leads to underdevelopment or mal-development and no hope. And this is not a matter of people, as some journalists say, that they are trying to find a better life like “I’m just going to another place to see whether the wages are better there.” These are people who are running away from hell. People don’t run away from places unless they have very serious reasons to do that. Leaving family, friends, their homes and their nation - all this is something we still don’t seem to understand in Europe. And I also wonder how this would have been covered if this was a luxury cruiser with Europeans and Americans on board. We are woefully inadequate, non-prepared and when militarism goes in, humanism goes out. It’s a very sad moment for Europe.
RT:Italy's Foreign Minister recently called for air strikes in Libya against ISIL positions there. What effect do you think that might have on the flow of people trying to flee the country?
JO: First of all, people who argued with this haven’t understood a word of the last twenty years of warfare around the world. It does not help to bomb or try to kill people - it comes back. It boomerangs both in hatred, terrorism and now in refugee columns. Secondly, we should have learned by now that warfare doesn’t solve any problems, it makes everything worse. You weaponize a conflict because you don’t deal with a conflict early enough. If you deal with a conflict with an early warning and the communities are willing to solve problems instead of trading arms, then we could solve many of these problems way before, with much less economic costs and much less human costs.
Catherine Shakdam from the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies also suggests that people are desperately fleeing from war zones to which EU countries contributed.
“Women, children, and civilians are dying because they are desperately trying to escape economic hardship and war zones. I think Europe in that way has to take responsibility because they have somehow created that chaos.”
“The main problem comes from Libya where Colonel Gaddafi used to subsidize a lot of African countries... And now that he has gone and his regime has completely fallen apart this money is not coming any more to those countries. Therefore, a lot of the social and economic hardship has gotten worse.”
“We can’t keep denying that issue [of migration from North Africa] and saying: ‘We don’t want to deal with it.’ It is the reality that we all need to deal with as a community, not just Western powers, I’m talking [about] everyone- we need to find ways in which civilians need to be protected.”
“We can’t think about the migration in terms of good or bad - it is about taking care of people. We cannot shy away from the fact that this is a human tragedy. And it could come to Europe tomorrow.”
David Cameron and some other EU leaders have blamed the Mediterranean crisis on human traffickers.
“I think the big problem for Cameron and other leaders in France as well is the strength of the right wing now across much of Europe. One of their main items is being against the migration. This comes right to that problem. Marine Le Pen has just won a big victory in France a few weeks ago, and animosity to immigrants is one of her main things she was talking about. I think Cameron also is afraid of that issue. So that is going to be a problem for France, for England and for all of Europe," said journalist Barry Lando.
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