Migrants take risky journeys to escape ‘poverty, hunger, insecurity’

Mohammed Ali Malek (C, in white), one of two survivors of Saturday's migrant boat disaster, later arrested on suspicion of people trafficking, is seen watching bodies of dead migrants being disembarked from the Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea in Valletta's Grand Harbour April 20, 2015 (Reuters / Darrin Zammit Lupi)
People are desperate to escape from the warzones in Syria or Libya where they are facing a profound hunger, Zina Aga, Iraqi Palestinian writer who lost a cousin as he attempted to flee Syria by boat told RT.

RT:EU leaders intend to re-establish government authority in Libya in an effort to halt migrants from taking the deadly journey in the first place. What’s your reaction to that proposal?

Zina Aga: On the one hand, I think we live in the 21st century: [if] we can get man on the moon, we can help a fellow man who is absolutely desperate. This sort of situation is a poor reflection on humanity. Secondly, I feel like borders is something that we created, and it is not up to us to decide who can come and who can go and play god with people lives like this. That is my initial reaction seeing the events.

RT:What could be a solution?

ZA: It is very complicated. There is a humanitarian solution and there is a political solution. In terms of the humanitarianism we need to prioritize human life. The way we’re dealing with this at the moment is very cruel, very barbaric. We need to realize that those dying are vulnerable people and such a massacre shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should be the first reaction.

But on a political level we need to reassess the structures that mean these people are desperate, and why they are leaving to begin with, we need to reassess our policy with Libya, Syria, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and those sorts of countries that are dealing with profound structural problems, and address Europe’s role in it, and why these people feel the need to come to Europe to begin with. When we address these fundamental issues everything else will flow out of it.

RT:The number of migrants trying to reach EU shores is spiking, obviously something needs to be done to cap the numbers. But the flow of migrants from North Africa to Europe became far greater after 2011, after the military intervention in Libya. How fair is it to connect this with immigration to Europe?

ZA: It seems like quite a causal link. One should be very wary when trying to glorify everything that came before... Make no mistake Gaddafi’s regime was a brutal one, but what happened since, in a similar way it happened in Iraq, a lack of infrastructure, a lack of sort of recovery, and the consequences of that are just a sort of chaos which leaves vulnerable people, normal people like us without any other choice apart from to look further afield for safety and security.

I do think that the spike obviously is related to growing unrest in the region, in the Middle East and North Africa. It is something that we shouldn’t isolate as separate events; they are definitely linked in a profound way. It is worth addressing of policy towards them as the West, but also addressing what to do on a human level.

RT:You lost a cousin who was trying to escape Syria. Could you share with our audience why do you think people take such dangerous risk?

ZA: Poverty, hunger, insecurity - the worst of humanity, especially in Syria. I was there in 2011, and to compare the image of that right at the beginning of the Arab spring: the food, the happiness that people had right in the beginning compared to what is happening now and a profound hunger. You can understand why people choose to take these journeys. The most tragic part about it is that we isolate this incidents, we think about the war in Syria as something disconnected to us but immigration and integration as such that something happens in Syria will have a reverberation over here. For instance, me having this interview is case in point. We need to think about these issues in terms of a bit more laterally perhaps, and to think the situation in Syria with all of its brutality has instigated this sort of reaction.

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