Our 22,000 Dead


The report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) was published on Monday: A total of over 22,000 people have died while fleeing to Europe since 2000. This makes Europe the most dangerous destination in the world for migrants.

Europe is reacting with indifference to this mass death at its external borders. Perhaps there is no other way to bear it. Because mourning the dead would mean admitting a very unpleasant truth:

The people who drown in the Mediterranean or bleed to death at the border fences of Melilla and Ceuta are our dead.

Refugees have long since ceased to be seen as people; they are "streams" or "waves", as if their fate were a natural disaster and therefore unfortunately unchangeable.

Europe has been turned into a fortress, with soldiers, fences and warships at its borders. However, anyone wishing to apply for asylum in Europe must first cross this border, as refugees cannot apply for asylum from outside Europe.

The mayor of Lampedusa wrote an open letter to the EU in 2013:

"I am the new mayor of Lampedusa. I was elected in May 2012 and by 3 November I had already received 21 bodies of people who drowned trying to reach Lampedusa.

This is unbearable for me and a great pain for our island. We had to ask other mayors in the province for help to bury the last eleven bodies with dignity. We had no more graves available. We will create new ones, but now I ask: how big does the cemetery on my island need to be? I am outraged by the indifference that seems to have infected everyone; I am upset by the silence of Europe, which has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and says nothing, even though there is a massacre here in which people are dying as if it were a war.

I am more and more convinced that European immigration policy accepts these human sacrifices in order to stem the flow of migration. Perhaps it even sees them as a deterrent. But if for these people travelling on the barges means the last spark of hope, then I believe that their deaths are a disgrace for Europe.

But if Europe acts as if these are only our dead, then I would like to receive an official telegram of condolence for every drowned person who is handed over to me. As if they had white skin, as if they were our son who drowned on holiday.

Signed: Giusi Nicolini."

I'm sitting here in a town surrounded by a triple 8-metre-high fence, guarded by 2,600 soldiers. On the other side are up to 30,000 refugees who see only one chance: Over the fence or across the sea to Europe - or die trying.

Yes, they are our European dead and there is nothing I can do about it. But I can look and report.

Note 28.01.2024: The report on the deaths since 2014 can be downloaded from www.iom.int (E/FR/ES).

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