African migrants: Europe's great shame


There are occasions when a media story will hit you in the solar plexus leaving you angry and speechless in equal measure. Monday the 9th May was one such day. The Guardian front page was dominated by a story that simply defies belief, a saga that provides an insight into the reality of humanitarianism, racism and callous indifference. African migrants left to die is a story that upon reading transported me instantly to the period of transatlantic slavery.

In a tale that reflects the 18th century horror of the dreaded middle passage 72 African migrants, escaping the turmoil of Tripoli on a small boat and seeking safety and security were left to die adrift on the Mediterranean Sea.

This sickening tragedy took place as Nato ships; planes and helicopters flew overheard and did nothing to save the men, women and children who were dying on a daily basis right in front of their eyes.

They were not subject to a rescue effort. Nato vessels from both Italy and France made contact with the migrants and choose to do nothing.

I believe that those European nations who were fully aware of the tragedy unfolding consciously decided to let these African die a miserable death of starvation and dehydration. For 16 days these African's drifted in dangerous seas of the 72 who set out to find a new life only 11 survived. At one point seeing helicopters approaching they held up aloft starving babies in a heart rendering plea for help.

European Union government's contempt for Africans is both visceral and toxic. Racism reduces human beings to miserable states of existence where morality and consciousness are absent replaced by toxic irrational hatred and callous disregard. Human beings are fully degraded by racism and the foul septic contagion of this evergreen hatred has plagued the world costing billions of lives and reducing the perpetrators into a psychological straight of jacket of hate and violence.
Slavery, Nazism, Colonialism and now neo liberalism provides ample historical examples of the wretched reality of mans inhumanity to man.

I am instantly reminded of the case of the notorious slave ship the Zong. The Zong massacre occurred on a slave ship owned by a Liverpool slave trading firm carrying enslaved Africans to Jamaica. Grossly overcrowded and lost at sea the Captain decided to throw overboard 122 chained Africans into the sea. He later tried to claim insurance for his lost cargo. The case became a cause celebre after a free African anti slavery campaigner Olaudah Equino raised the issue into a national scandal.
Some of the most vicious forms of racism are historically economic and state sponsored. Some of the most notorious examples of racism can be found during the period of transatlantic slavery. The image of the African slave manacled below the deck of a rotten and festering slave ship during the middle passage remains one of the most enduring images in world history.

That reality has now returned with the scandal that has seen hundreds of Africans migrants sailing from North African ports seeking entry in to Europe die on the high seas.

International law requires that all ships or planes answer distress calls and ensure an emergency response. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR spokesperson speaking to the Guardian stated, "The Mediterranean cannot become the wild west," said spokeswoman Laura Boldrini. "Those who do not rescue people at sea cannot remain unpunished."

Italy and France have colluded with racism to commit and act of gross barbarity and inhumanity. Both were aware of the plight of these Africans and both Presidents Sarkozy and Berlusconi who have sanctioned state racism on an unprecedented scale should be tried along with those Nato officers who refused to rescue these desperate migrants.

This is an example of what happens when Presidential racism infects a nation a tacit green light is given to behave in a racist way. The example is set at the top and sets the tone for the rest of Government, police officers and the military. Both nations should hang their heads in shame at this incident. I doubt anyone will be brought to account or face sanction. The fact is the African lives in eyes of some European Governments are worth nothing. This sad fact can be illustrated by the fact that if this was a boat load of animals they would have been rescued of that we can be sure. We are no longer called niggers nor are we slaves we are however subject to a degree of callous inhumane indifference that relegates our lives as worth less than animals.

Lee Jasper

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Picture: Refugees from Libya

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Europe's great shame !

Truly shocking. Many innocent lives slowly ebbed away whilst European officials looked on and did nothing. I do hope the African Nation's union registers its views to those concerned.

Lee in comfort zone.

Way to stir up racial hatred, Lee. It appears to be the only effect that your article will have. I cannot understand why you would attempt to make your own job more difficult.

Seriously, you should know how difficult humanitarian efforts are and you should perhaps engage yourself more in front-line actions if you wish to avert these tragedies. There are people out there who are doing far more in positive action than you will ever hope to achieve. Perhaps if people make mistakes in humanitarian efforts they should all go home and leave it for Libya to sort itself out.

I challenge you to take a boat to North Africa to rescue Libyans from militant dictatorship and wrathful shellings that are occurring in Misrata, in emulation of others who are putting themselves in harms way in an attempt to do so. If mass-refugee waves are so easy to deal with then it would not be tough work to do.

Perhaps you should take yourself out of the comfort zone for a change.

Africa is a big place

Why immigrate to Europe when they know they are NOT WANTED!

Africa is a big place. Newsflash - the third world are not Europe's responsibility - try the guilt trip on the Arabs or the Chinese and see how far you get.

I agreed with Lee

I agreed with Lee. This year has been declared by the UN as the year of people from African descent. What are we going to do with it? this is the right tiime to demand reparations. It is not a matter of stirring up racial hatred, are our forefathers and mothers not worth fighting for? what they did to build the European nations, must be continually ignored??
The Jewish people call for reparatuoons for their holocaust, what about us? It is time they removed the debt from African nations and give us the correct renumerations for our precious minerals that they extract on a daily basis for their mobile phones etc just for starters.
Good luck with your negotians in USA this year. We need specific demands to gain success.



How is this Europe's problem?

Its a tragedy. But truth be told it is not Europe's problem. Every person on those boats came from a sovereign independent country. What have they said about it? What did they do to rescue their people or bring them home. The big question is not 'Presidential racism' whatever that is but African government's who literally couldn't give a damn about their people. As an African I know what people go through to get here and then have a quality of life even worse than the one they left behind because the same big men who prattle on about racism and reparations squander their money on private jets and mansions in Europe. Africa will never be anything until we face inwards and deal with our problems

A chance to tell thier side?

In and of itself, this story is horrendous and I would find it difficult for any human with either a heart or soul to turn a bind eye to people in such appalling distress. I am though somewhat purturbed by the way you have written this Lee. Before damning in writing anyone for not taking action in such circumstances I would at the very least expect you to have made an effort to ask why these governments failed to act? If the answer came back that they had no comment to make or they failed to justify the reasons for their inaction then the story could indeed stand alone. As a black person I am not ready to forgive such sins of omission but I always want to find a reason for what, as you have written it, amounts to such callous and inhuman behaviour. In looking at the reasoning, would want to hear what the alleged perpetrators of this behaviour have to say. I am also of a mind to consider why there was a failure of other African countries to act, or are you so certain that no other African ships or planes were ever aware of the terrible situation these people found themselves in. One final point; With the availabability of the modern media recieving gadgets to most if not all in Western Countries, we are minute by minute able to see the inhuman behaviour of people against people across the world. Some reports are genuinely aimed at trying to get our attention in a way that encourages us to stand up against such horrors while others portray a sense of sensationalism which always sells news. My concern is that in whatever way it is being reported today it is of such frequency that we are all at risk of becoming hardend in our responses; perhaps not quite yet to the same extent as the civilians who suffer so much when their armed forces are at war with their own people or with other countries, or similarly in the cases of the many reluctant soldiers who are forced to take up arms at times of war or internal conflict. My point is that we need to be careful how we respond in writing about such horrors if we are not to unwittingly add to the problem by causing inertia or misplaced and inapporpriate anger.

Where are the African leaders

Why do we have to blame the Europe for every thing, where are the African leaders, other nations are getting their people out, why can't we get our people out, because we are selfish.
I agree with Dias. Enough of the blame game, Africa needs to sit up and learn to take care of its people, I think we have become too dependent, relying on others.
And stop inciting racism please.
God Bless

How is this Europe's problem?

Come on Osyman, the boat was lost and in distress made contact on more than one occasion with European boats belonging to NATO. To be specific France and Italy.
All countries with the means have a humanitarian responsibility, the sad fact is that far too many African countries do not have the means. Do you think for a second a European nation would have ignored the emergency calls if the boat was full of Europeans? No, nor do I.

So keep your 'Presidential racism' comment and justk demand that Black people are treated with the same humanitarian standards as others.

No more, no less.

"Do you think for a second a

"Do you think for a second a European nation would have ignored the emergency calls if the boat was full of Europeans? No, nor do I. "

I think it is distinctly possible. It is also possible that the people in question hid themselves from the authorities because these were desperate people who would not wish to be deported back to their country of origin.

There is also the unfortunate reality that humanitarian efforts are desperately under-funded and under-staffed and the very cynical notion that non-EU refugees do not pay tax to the EU therefore are not inherently entitled to EU services. I wouldn't expect to go into a shop and expect to be given some of the items because I asked nicely. Contracturally speaking, there is infact little EU responsibility for people who chose to take their lives into their own hands, as is the case. Any positive action that does occur is as thus positive and should therefore be credited as generocity on behalf of the taxpayer.

Simon, we live in a world where things do not always go to plan for people not because of a withdrawal of support from an authority but because things can sometimes not be done even if every willing person wishes for someting to happen. This misunderstanding of how a country/society works is what gives way to conspiricy theories such as people's belief that the US government purposefully destroyed the World Trade Centre. In that case, some people would rather believe that their government was cruel but all-powerful, therefore able to protect those it decides, rather than face up to the reality that the world's only remaining old-superpower (USA) could be attacked so easily by a group of billionaire-criminals (such as Bin Laden) who pose as low-tech third-world militant jihadists.

I think, Simon, that it appears as if you would rather use conspiricy theory logic rather than read from available facts or those that might be obtained from an independant inquiry (always a possibility). To paraphrase: It is never the job of a scientist to assume, only to verify.

Did I read this correct?

Did I read this correct?

'It is also possible that the people in question hid themselves from the authorities because these were desperate people who would not wish to be deported back to their country of origin'.

Are we seriously blaming the victims for not being helped. We cannot speculate as to whether or not they were hiding. What we do know is that they called for help when they got in distress, and Josh, Osyman and NG, help from those who could have provided it, never arrived .

That's not a conspiracy, that's bloody shameful.

What part of that is difficult to understand?

What we should be asking for is an inquiry as to exactly how these individuals were so dramatically and tragically failed.

Although I'm sure the apologists would say 'that's a waste of tax payers money'.

All evidence is speculatory

All evidence is speculatory and circumstantial until there is an inquiry. Also, do you really believe everything that you read in the newspapers? You weren't at this scene nor do you have evidence to justify any accusation made. Your oppinions are no more valid than mine.

If you want an inquiry, ask for one - it is your self-appointed duty. Regarding the 'tax-payers' comments, I was simply trying to illustrate the complex factors that shape and govern society and that these things are so not because people want it to be so but because it is unfortunately the reality of how things are. I suppose it is high-concept philosophising that you cannot appear to tap into.

Also, you have read my statement, suggested that I am a simpleton and yet you have adopted my idea of an inquiry and claimed it as your own independant initiative. Do you plagiarise often? The truth is that you never had the idea of an inquiry and it took an inquiring person such as myself to implant that idea in your mind. Think about it.

You appear to neglect these realities and exchange them with your narrow-minded views about plucking people from despair and making everything all 'hunky-dory'. Basically, you appear to believe that society is somehow not good enough for you and that everything that everybody does should somehow relate back to you in a way which tangibly includes yourself. If this is what you think then run for government - you, however, fail to understand and appreciate the inter-connected world we live in and the associated relationships. This is a valuable skill for the 21st century.

Orgainsation improves efficiency but there is no magic solution to all of these problems. You have not grasped that there is an inherent difficulty within life itself that affects everyone and everything. Essentially, you suggest that difficult problems are always simplistically obvious or ridiculously easy to solve, all while offering no solution. This is a hallmark of a bigoted person.

Seriously though, you are the sort of person that appears to believe in conspiracies. If you read my comments properly then you would realise that I made no suggestion of any conspiracy and I infact do not believe in the all-powerful government, one that could solve all problems if only it wanted to, that you appear to believe in.

Please also show some respect or, at the very least, acknowledgement for the positive things that people do (much more than yourself) to help these situations when everybody could simply decide to not care - that little chestnut called apathy.

I would gladly pay for that inquiry I suggested if only to remove some of that smug sense of self-satisfaction and schadenfreude that you appear to derive from being so unnecessarily anti-European - or at least to put your over-racialising mind at ease.

As I stated before: "Any positive action that does occur is as thus positive and should therefore be credited as generocity on behalf of the taxpayer. " Is this too difficult a qualifier to understand? It's a mindset that could do you some good if you wish to understand how things actually get done in the world - otherwise you will forever be floundering around as that big fish in a small pond.


I hope Josh, you feel better now you've got that bile of your chest.

But you won't stop me or others demanding greater racial justice.

You know we can disagree with ideas Josh, even have a robust exchange, but tone the insults down.


African Migrant - Europe's Greatest Shame

I think Lee's article says it as it it. Our lives as African people's a worth nothing to them. In terms of comments submitted "where are African leaders" I know Ghana for example has airlifted 1000's of people from the civil unrest in North Africa. African leaders have advised against the bombing of Libya in this way - but no one listens to them. I think African leaders have stood as a lone vioce of reason in the current Libya crisis.

Political Disappointment.

I would hardly describe the above comments insulting when compared with some of the notions from the articles written by yourself and Lee Jasper. You know the kinds of things that I mean.

You can demand racial justice all you like but you do not appear to have a plan to deal with it apart from the proliferation of emotional rhetoric. Well, like most politicians, Mr Woolley, you appear to be unable to deliver on your pledge, leaving only misplaced confidence in-wake. It is just a shame that, also like many politicians, you and your peers enjoy a disproportionately decent level of income out of it.

Here's a little policy: anybody wishing to contribute towards racial justice should be both expected and morally justified to do it for free or at a minimal income, this way we all get much better work done from those who would be less prone to fiscal partisanship.

From the EHRC:

"He declared that he has not engaged in any political activity in the past five years when responding to the political activity questionnaire."



Yes Josh pls tone it down, its getting too personal now, we are all in this for a cause, just make your point and escape the rest.

Sadly, the Black experience

It is the Black experience in dealing with individuals such as Josh, that after losing the argument they descend in personal insults, and when that's done the attack moves onto a different front: 'You've done nothing, you have no plan and you get paid'.

Some facts for Josh, although, I don’t expect an apology will be forth coming and he'll probably try to open up another front to attack.
Everybody at OBV has been a volunteer at some point. The deputy Director and myself for over three years whilst we built the organization. Wages are disproportionately low for the sector.
But the wider point is about OBV's achievement over the years: widely acknowledged and rarely disputed.
Before we came into existence Black communities had little or no political voice. OBV changed all that by mobilsing the Black electorate via political campaigns including voter registration and highlighting that an empowered Black electorate could significantly influence who won and lost in marginal seats.
Our direct work with all the main stream political parties has helped numbers grow from 6 in 1996 to 27 today. The first female Muslim Cabinet member Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was part of OBV in the North in the late 90's. The first Conservative female MP from African decent came from OBV's MP shadowing scheme.
OBV's has had citizenship programs in over 500 schools. And OBV's magistrate programmes has nurtured nearly BME 70 magistrates, and with an average age 15 years younger than the national average it is estimated that these magistrates with give 1200 years of public service between them.

We are much more than rhetoric, we pride ourselves in having a grand plan and delivering on it.

Finally Josh, if you want to positively engage with us, that means helping, and at times criticizing, then fine, we'd be glad to talk you. But if it’s to drag us down then I'd suggest there are other websites that will cater to your views.



Laws and morals

Bottom line, look to the law:

NATO (France), Italy and possibly Malta have to answer for their neglect of the laws they are both signed up to and ratified.

Fact, not speculation: The master of ship made the distress call, the Italian coastguard were alerted, as they confirm when they are quoted thus: "We advised Malta that the vessel was heading towards their search and rescue zone, and we issued an alert telling vessels to look out for the boat, obliging them to attempt a rescue". The Maltese authorities deny they were involved.

The survivors allege that NATO aircraft carrier visited the boat but then withdrew. It was later put to French naval officials that it was the French ship Charles de Gaulle, initially denied the carrier was in the region at that time, but after being made aware that news reports indicated this was untrue, the French have declined to comment.

So not "All evidence is speculatory and circumstantial"; it isn't a question of Lee Jasper having to become a coastguard or join the RNLI or the Navy; it's not about whether the "Arabs/Chinese" would have acted differently; it's not about what the victims cuntry of origin is, and whilst "truth be told it is not Europe's problem", truth be told, France, Italy and Malta are European states.

So, regardless about what Lee Jasper or OBV think of me, or I think of them - e.g. they'd probably disagree with me that comparisons with the Zong and slavery were a bit misplaced - it's probably better to save that and look at who is responsible.

Italy looks to have grassed up Malta but still has a case to answer under law. The French need to confirm that their NATO ship was not in the area before removing themselves from the fray. End of. Look to the law.

facts speak much louder

Thank you David for highlighting these facts. They speak volumes without rhetoric, cynicism or conspiracy.