More than 2,925 bodies have been recovered from Mediterranean waters this year; they represent the desperation of people from Middle Eastern and African countries where civil society has broken down due to armed conflict, terrorism, lawlessness and economic despair. Over the last few years, the Mediterranean refugee crisis has hung like a specter over European nations where refugees are fleeing in sheer desperation. The European Union has programs in place to grant asylum to these unfortunate people in need; however, there is only so much these countries can do to alleviate the situation.
The Case of the 26 Drowned Nigerian Girls
In early November, the Spanish Armada ship Cantabria was busy conducting rescue operations in the Mediterranean; the crew had already helped to save 2,650 migrants bound towards European ports when they came across 34 bodies of migrants who had already drowned. The victims included 26 Nigerian girls between the ages of 14 and 18; the Spanish sailors transported the victims to the Italian coastal town of Salerno, where the police prefect had already contacted the Catholic Church and local African residents to arrange for a respectful, solemn and dignified burial.
The crew of the Cantabria contacted investigators assigned to Operation Sophia, who believe that the Nigerian girls were victims of a human trafficking ring working with Libyan warlords. The girls were likely smuggled into the lawless Libyan territory and would have been sold as potential sex workers if they made it to the Italian island of Lampedusa and subsequently to mainland Europe.
The Worldwide Refugee Situation Worsens
At a time when US President Donald Trump wants to prevent refugees from entering the US, international media is calling for a greater awareness upon the status of refugees around the world. In Berlin, newspaper Der Tagesspiegel recently published a list of all refugees who have died while trying to seek refuge since 1993. The list contains 33,293 casualties printed across 48 pages. Sadly, many of them have yet to be identified despite diligent work by the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations.
There’s also the documentary film Human Flow, which estimates that 65 million people around the world live under refugee status, and many of them are from African nations. Let us not forget that Kenya has hosted hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee Somalia and other hostile regions besieged by terrorist groups, warlords and criminals, nor that Congolese refugees have turned up in places as far away as Costa Rica, where they are getting stuck as they seek a better life in the United States.
At an emergency meeting in Geneva, officials from Africa and Europe pledged to work together towards improving conditions for the desperate refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean. At the same time, however, anti-refugee sentiment is multiplying among far-right political groups in various European nations.