Migrant deaths: who is responsible?

by Chris Bertram on April 21, 2015

Yesterday, in response to a series of tragedies involving migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, the EU issued [a ten-point plan](http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4813_en.htm?locale=en) with a lot of emphasis on taking action against people smugglers and a range of further measures, such as fingerprinting migrants, that seem irrelevant to events. British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last year refused to back search and rescue plans on the grounds that they encouraged people to take risks, is now [blaming](http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32382962) “the human traffickers and the criminals that are running this trade.” The one group European politicians are not blaming, by and large, is themselves. Yet they, and the electorates they appease, bear most of the responsibility.

The reason for this is simple, and it is obvious. All European states are signatories to the Refugee Convention and that places obligations on them to offer sanctuary to people who arrive on their shores and who have a “well-founded fear” of persecution (on various grounds). Although politicians like to claim that their countries have a proud history of taking in the persecuted — as Cameron claimed in a speech last year — they now do everything in their power to make it as hard as possible for those seeking asylum to arrive on their territory. Devices such as heavy financial penalties on airlines and other carriers and ever tighter visa restrictions mean that people fleeing countries such as Syria and Eritrea simply cannot arrive in Europe by safe routes, and if they do so by using false documents they are often prosecuted and imprisoned. People from these countries make up a significant proportion of those trying to cross from Libya to Italy. Because people cannot travel via safe routes, they travel via dangerous ones, just as they do in other parts of the world. They put themselves in the hands of people smugglers and they take the risk of crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. But the people smugglers, though no doubt unscrupulous criminals on the whole, are simply responding to a demand that European politicians and their electorates have created.

There is more. Whilst politicians from all of Europe are culpable, many those in northern Europe are particularly so. They have put in place a system in the EU that means that those people who do arrive and claim asylum must do so in the country they first enter. It is very hard to enter the UK, and most of those arriving turn up in countries such as Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain, southern European countries hardest hit by the economic crisis. Countries such as the UK can disclaim responsibility and have no incentive to agree to a fair system of burden sharing.

Fingers pointed at people-smugglers and “traffickers” are pointed in the wrong direction. Europeans need only look in the mirror to see those responsible.

Least Trumps

by Belle Waring on April 21, 2015

I mentioned a little while ago that I had an excellent plan for a project. I have always wanted to make my own Tarot deck, since I was a young teenager. Well, I say this, but probably since I was nine or ten. At the time I imagined that I would have to successfully pull a wood-block print for all the backs, and paint each one, perfectly, all 78, and then if a drop of water got on them later? I would die. So I imagined having them laminated, but then I considered the state of much-used laminated papers such as those employed in classes, and I thought it unwise to entrust to the process anything about which I cared greatly. Yellowing, bubbling, peeling; these are all terrible. Now many things exist which can facilitate my devising of a deck of cards, such as the use of photoshop to create perfectly symmetrical arabesques for the reverses based on only one properly-inked section. But of course the infinitely more pleasing prospect is that of getting my designs printed on card stock, and the edges trimmed, and then all shared with others! I had only ever intended my own version of the designs in the Waite-Smith deck,* but then I remembered that I had had another idea, which was to make a set of cards based on Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s deck in John Crowley’s Little, Big. Truly it’s Violet’s deck, but we see it used by Nora Cloud in the course of the book. (Violet is my younger daughter’s name; mine can be her deck also.) Those who have read the book will know that the deck, its reading, and physical disposition figure greatly in the work, and those of you who have not SHOULD GO READ IT NOW DEAR GOD READ LITTLE, BIG FOR THE FIRST TIME I ENVY YOU! Really, it’s maybe my single favourite book.

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