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Why do migrants die at sea?

Record number of migrants expected to drown in Mediterranean this year

"Record number of migrants expected to drown in Mediterranean this year" says the headline of a Guardian article (*). It is the word "expected" that I have a problem with. Who is expecting and why?


Almost five in every 1,000 children born in the UK die before the age of five.

The mortality rate in Ireland for children under five is 4.6 deaths per 1000 births, almost double that in Iceland, which was the lowest recorded at 2.4 deaths per 1,000 births in 2014.

Malta has the worst record with 7 deaths per 1,000.

In Ireland there were 17,699 babies born in the first quarter of 2014. The total number of births in 2013 was 68,930. That is 317 dead children before reaching the age of 5.

The population of Iraq is just under 35 million.

According to the Iraqi government and other independent NGO’s and civil society groups, between 2003 and 2014, around 4.5 million children have lost one or both parents (almost 1 in 3) and approximately 600,000 children are living on the streets.

Child labour has increased with 15% of children under the age of 14 now working.  Around 800,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are workers.

There are now up to 3 million widows in Iraq, many struggling as heads of households and living in extreme poverty.

More than 4 million Iraqis have been displaced since 2003, including almost 2 million children

According to an UNHCR report, 2009, 2o% of the internally displaced and 5% of returnee families reported cases of missing children. This amounted to around 93500 children who had disappeared as a result of violence, kidnapping, abduction or forced recruitment by armed forces.

Each year, around 35,000 infants die before reaching their first birthday.

Over 1.5 million children under the age of five are undernourished.

Around 700,000 children are not enrolled in primary school, while hundreds of thousands more drop out before graduating. Around 2.5 million children do not have access to safe water, and 3.5 million lack adequate sanitation facilities.

In 2012, according to UNICEF, the under-five mortality rate in Iraq was 34 per 1,000 births.

According to another United Nations reports, Afghanistan's war takes heavy civilian toll. Number of civilians killed or injured in first six months of 2014 rose by quarter, with more than 1,000 of those children

In 2013, total civilian casualties in Afghanistan had jumped by 23%, with the number of children killed rising by nearly a third.

In 2012, according to UNICEF, the under-five mortality rate in Afghanistan was 99 per 1,000 births.

Respectively, the under-five mortality rates in Somalia, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Syria are 167, 119, 117, 99, 51, 64 and 15.

An estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the war in March 2011, taking refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million have fled to Syria's immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Estimated 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria. Meanwhile, under 150,000 Syrians have declared asylum in the European Union, while member states have pledged to resettle a further 33,000 Syrians.

Over 1.5 million Syrian children are refugees.

According to UN, child marriage among Syrian refugees has more than doubled since the start of the conflict, leaving girls vulnerable to health problems, domestic abuse and poverty.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children are forced into slave labour. In Lebanon alone this number is reported to be 200,000. Hundreds of thousands of children are long term homeless and live on the streets. Many have no access to proper education. Their chances to return to their homes any time soon is none. During the winter of 2014, UN and other aid agencies warned the international community that the funding necessary to provide basic food to Syrian refugees in camps is running out.

Let’s leave the situation of Libya, Yemen and other North African countries to another article.

But, what is all this about, all these numbers and stats from Europe to Afghanistan?

Because of a heading in Guardian that read, “Record number of migrants expected to drown in Mediterranean this year” followed by a subtext “A record number of migrants will drown in the Mediterranean this year if the current death rate remains unchecked, after 10 times as many migrants lost their lives during the first three months of 2015 as during the equivalent period in 2014.”

“Record number of migrants expected to drown in Mediterranean this year” In other words, these deaths are completely preventable and avoidable, unless of course there are some other sinister plans at play.

“In 2014 Q1, the Mediterranean migrant death per 1000 arrivals was 4.2. This number jumped up to 48.10 in 2015 Q1. At least 486 asylum seekers have drowned in the Mediterranean since the start of the year, compared with 46 in the first three months of 2014”

“The death toll has risen sharply even though the number of migrants arriving in Europe by sea has remained roughly the same”

Why do migrants die at sea?

Firstly, imagine yourself in Syria, Libya, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen or Afghanistan. What would you do to stay alive and to save your children from the huge risk of death?

Which border, which immigration law, what travel visa or passport would you care about?

Secondly, where do these migrants come from?

Many from the places listed above, where war, hunger, torture, poverty, death is a huge part of their daily life…

But, why?

Take for example Nigeria, a petroleum rich country where millions of people are forced to live under an oppressive regime and with an income of just a Dollar a day…

Africa, a vast continent of rich water and land, mostly privatized and sold off to international corporations for profit. Millions of people cut off from their natural living environments…

The bombing and complete destruction of Libya by NATO forces; yet again in the name of bringing ‘peace’ and liberating the people…

The lavish arms trade fairs in European capitals; inviting the corrupt, oppressive rulers and army chiefs of poor nations, wining and dining them before selling them billions worth of new weapons at the expense of their poor people back at home…

The rich and powerful states, and their wars and invasions; their support to dictatorial regimes around the world, all for more domination and for more profit…


But, why do migrants, fleeing from these die?

Because, the rich and powerful states simply don’t care…

Because, miseries are best kept far away or sunken at the bottom of the sea…

Because, EU’s decision not to create a like-for-like replacement of Mare Nostrum, a full-scale Italian rescue operation that folded last October, has neither curbed the number of attempts to cross the sea, nor fatalities along the way.

Because, the rulers of the rich and powerful states deny the very basic human right, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - 14/1, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”


Migrants die because they don’t have a safe passage to safety… The only option for safety is to be an illegal migrant in the hands of deadly traffickers and at the mercy of killer waves of the open seas…

Migrants die because the rulers of the rich and powerful states deny them a safety of passage. They simply couldn’t care less about the article 14/1…

In short, what these rulers say is, “Don’t let them come, let them die where they are, or let them die on the way…’’

Migrants die because somebody’s national interests, somebody’s profits, somebody’s arms trades become somebody else’s last hope of coffin ships.

That’s why migrants die.



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