The Spanish and Moroccan authorities have just about given up looking for the bodies of those from the overcrowded vessel that capsized on Sunday off the Moroccan coast. They were another set of victims who have fallen into the Mediterranean in what has now been termed ‘the world’s greatest mass grave’.
The authorities have stepped up efforts against the continued movement of people, but it remains that prisons and search police will never deter the desperate.
It is inequality which provokes people to make the voyages and it is these continuing push factors which undo methods to prevent it.
The main links for the migrants escaping North Africa are from Morocco and Libya through Italy and Spain; these two routes are taken by those from all over Africa, going to all over Europe.
It is estimated by Libyan home affairs minister that there are as many as 750,000 non-Libyans in the country waiting to make the voyage.
People are familiar with how the migrants make the journey, largely because monthly there are gruesome reports of when the crossings are unsuccessful, Sunday was no different. Seven women drowned, one of whom was pregnant as their small boat capsized.
The disastrous crossings often hit the newspapers, but these are a fraction of many more that go unreported, a result of inadequate food and water as well as illness.
It was estimated in June 2008 alone that up to 173 migrants died on the crossing. Why do people continue to take the risk?
The attractions are perhaps obvious. The people who leave are the poor, frustrated and young, to whom the lights of Europe are irresistible.
There are parents who hope to have their children in Europe, to attain citizenship (note the death of the pregnant lady) whilst many are forced by war, as in Somalia and Eritrea.
The response of Europe has been labelled ‘Fortress Europe’. In 2005, Italy negotiated a ‘more oil, less immigrants’ agreement which saw Libya given funding to prevent migrants leaving, and accompnaying human rights abuses.
Spain has undertaken a vast operation to reduce entrants into the country with cooperation from Morocco, including joint patrol forces and repatriation agreements between the two states.
Fortress Europe is set to get stronger, as policy is more and more coordinated by Europe rather than national polity - see 2008 Common Immigration Policy - and Europe since the June elections have swung to the political right.
(Incidentally this includes a seat for the British Nationalist Party. Nick Griffin, the party head, stated recently that his solution to the waves of migrants would be to “sink a couple of boats”.)
One thing that Nick Griffin’s remark shows, albeit bent by his disturbed political ethos, is the lack of actual ways to deter those leaving.
The dangers of the voyage are becoming well publicised, combined with crippling costs and an increased chance of being caught.
The problem however remains. The reason which of-course nationalist and right-wing European groups wouldn’t understand and equally would refuse to address is the issue of inequality.
I will end this very brief article with a simple truth, that fleets of marine police and prison cells are rational attempts to deter people crossing, but they ignore the rationality of those making the journey; a willingness to die for a perceived life in Europe’s bright lights.
Policy-makers should consider their actions which further the pressure on people to leave their land.
From desertification of arable land as a result of climate change, collapsing agricultural prices from food dumping and the responsibility of providing a safe crossing for those fleeing violence.
A structural not a reactive result could reduce numbers and save the lives of those crossing.
The author lives in the United Kingdom and is a friend of Rwanda