The plight of rescue ship Aquarius highlights the horrific consequences of failed migration policies
The plight of Aquarius, the rescue ship carrying 629 migrants, stands as a potent reminder of the dire failings of European migration policy. No matter that the ship carried seven pregnant women and more than a hundred unaccompanied children rescued at sea as they tried to make the desperate, dangerous crossing from Libya to Italy. First Italy, then Malta, refused the ship entry to their ports. Eventually, Spain offered to let it dock in the port of Valencia, four days away in harsh sailing conditions.
Spain’s socialist foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said this was a “symbolic act” to try to impel more coordinated action from a continent engaged in “ostrich politics”. But the sad truth is that since 2015 – the year that the scale of the migration crisis became clear – the European appetite for a common, humanitarian approach to migrant and refugee flows from Africa and the Middle East has only dwindled. The Spanish gesture seems highly unlikely to prompt a desperately needed rethink. In recent years, the thrust of European policy has shifted from improving conditions for those seeking refuge within Europe, to stemming irregular migration flows regardless of the humanitarian cost. The philosophy appears to be that, so long as there are no drowned toddlers washing up on Greek beaches, Europe is discharging its moral and legal duties, regardless of whether ultimately they end up dead elsewhere.
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