The sickening ease with which the UK government justifies letting “other people’s” children drown.
By E.F Nicholson
The announcement that the UK is withdrawing any support for rescue operations in the Mediterranean, as expected, is slowly disappearing from the news cycle. Though the dire consequences for those most affected are still as real as ever.
After writing the previous blog post about how my adopted daughter were saved by the very type of rescue assistance the UK is now withdrawing support from, I felt some need to do something other than just rant on about how bad the Tories are. So I started petition and added it to the previous article and I have added a link to it in this article as will. I wanted to give anyone reading it what I had written or anyone who was already aware of this decision, some place to register their disapproval of what is happening. It’s an attempt to try to shame the shameless into reversing their decision.
In creating this petition I have delved further into this issue to try get a better understanding of exactly what’s going on, what’s brought this about and why we have arrived at this point. I thought that, by finding out more, I may get a more nuanced or more complex understanding of each side of the debate. Yet what I discovered is that what appeared to be a thoughtless and cruel removal of all support for rescue operations turned out to be exactly that. The more I discovered, the more it just furthered my disgust and dismay at how callous and cavalier the UK government approach is when it comes to dealing with “other people’s” lives.
A statement made by UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay encapsulated the sordid and feeble logic behind their decision to withdraw. They have brazenly admitted that the lives of children, women and men will be lost; lives that would have been saved if their support had continued. So they are not pretending people won’t die, they are just trying to argue that those deaths will somehow be “worth it” in the end.
In a statement, UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay said:
‘We understand that by withdrawing this rescue cover we will be leaving innocent children, women and men to drown who we would otherwise have saved.’
This off-handed comment about the inevitable death of innocent people is followed up by what is meant to be some kind of “reassurance.”
The Baroness added
“that when word got round they will think twice about making the journey. And so eventually, over time, more lives will be saved”.
So we have the Tories preaching ‘tough love’ as they see it. That some lives might have to be sacrificed so that, in the bigger picture, more lives will be saved. Of course it’s very easy for the Baroness and her aristocrat peers to put on the sacrificial alter “other people’s” children, parents and siblings. It’s not her family and friends whose lives will be lost in the process of ensuring “word gets out.” It also won’t be the Baroness Anelay, Teresa May or David Cameron that will be plucking from the water the bloated and rotting corpses of “innocent children, women and men… who we would otherwise have saved”. People who have been abandoned at sea, and left to die whilst hoping for a rescue that never arrives. For these unfortunate souls, obviously the word just didn’t get out quickly enough.
According to Joyce Anelay, the grieving relatives of those who perish due to a lack of rescue operations should take some comfort that their deaths were not in vain, as their sacrifice would actually “save lives” once “word got around.” Like the heads on spikes in medieval times as a way of deterring criminals, their drowned bodies are meant to act as a red flag deterring would-be asylum seekers from taking this route.
Yet it’s quite a big statement to make, to actually admit publicly that “withdrawing this rescue cover will result in innocent children, women and men [drowning] who we would otherwise have saved.” So big, in fact, you would want to be 100% sure about the whole theory this justification of the loss of life is based on. You would want to know that this theory is backed up unequivocally by all the majority stakeholders and organisations that are actively involved in the understanding of how and why people decide to take such risky ventures.
Because what happens if Joycle Anley and the party she represents is actually wrong about what will happen when “word gets out”? As I am sure word has got out that already this year 3000 people have died making this crossing and it still hasn’t stopped the boats coming. In previous years, it was 2000 that died – and still they come. So how many will have to die for the “word to get out” that it is just not worth it? 5,000? 10,000? How many dead children, women and men will be allowed to die unnecessarily just so word can get out? What if their theory of rescue operations being based on “pull”, rather than “push” is incorrect? Then what this means, in effect, is that the lives of the “innocent children, women and men… who we would otherwise have saved.” will have been lost for nothing. That being the case, will the Baroness Aneley be writing a letter of apology to their families? Will she resign in shame? Will she stripped of her title of Baroness, because her willingness to let people die failed to prove the point she thought it would? Is the imagination of the Tory party so feeble that it can’t envision a solution in which all lives are saved whenever possible, whilst attempting the stem the tide of asylum seekers by addressing the core issue that drive people to take this dangerous journey? Surely it is possible to do both, isn’t it?
What is most saddening and disturbing is the fact that it takes only a few minutes of searching on the internet, garnering the opinion of most experts in this field, to discover that the majority perceive the driving factor behind people taking this perilous journey from Africa to Europe to be the desperation of their circumstances. Be it the International Organisation for Migration, Human Rights Watch or Amnesty international, all conclude that it is “push” rather than “pull” that drives the boats coming from Africa to Europe. A simple example of this is the massive influx of Syrians, and, in particular, Palestinian refugees. Up until Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza this July, virtually no Palestinians were found taking this route into Europe. Even though all the ‘pull’ was supposedly in place. After Gaza has been laid to ruin, all of sudden we have an influx of Palestinians attempting to make this dangerous journey. The same goes for the Syrian refugees once their civil war broke out, and there was a similar influx seen after NATO’s involvement in the civil war in Libya.
These are people whose lives have been torn up and destroyed, and who are desperately seeking some kind of stability for themselves and their families. This makes their journey a desperate last resort to find safety and refuge. The ’pull’ factor might be two weeks’ free accommodation and free booze if you buy a flight to Lanzarote. The ’push’ factor, on the other hand, is when your situation is so dire that you will take whatever risk is required to have a chance of reaching a better and safer place. The logic of attributing “pull” as the main thrust of why people make the dangerous journey is as ludicrous as getting rid of life guards at the beach because it encourages reckless swimming, or getting rid of safety bags in cars because encourages careless driving. Teresa May is either as dumb as dog shit or just plain old liar. I would think the latter.
So we see that the whole premise of the UK withdrawal is based on misinformation or ultimately a convenient lie. I cynically believe that they must know that as well. Given I can ascertain that it is more “push” than “pull” just from searching Google, I have no doubt the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has many more resources at her disposable, knows this only too well herself. Of course they can’t just come out and tell us the unvarnished truth – namely that “we are willing to let these people die as it is in our best interests politically at this moment to show our voter base how tough we on immigrants”. That would be just too honest. So cynical political posturing gets wrapped up in the most shabby and transparent of excuses.
Yet what adds even further insult to injury, as touched on in the previous article, is that much of the “push” that is driving this dangerous passage across the Mediterranean comes directly and indirectly from the UK’s meddling in both Africa and the Middle East. The UK’s involvement in Iraq, the bombing of Libya, their tacit support of Israel, their backing of despots in African nations, the billions of pounds made from the sale of arms to Africa and the Middle East, the extraction of resources… all these worsen the instability that drives these people’s desperation for a better life. It seems as though the UK government is happy to lap up the benefits of globalisation, but suddenly becomes all about “Protecting Britain” when the blowback from their international dabbling shows itself in the form of innocent people seeking asylum. And if there were really any genuine interest in stemming the tide of boats coming from Africa, they would start to address these root causes. Yet even without doing this, they could at least offer the opportunity to apply for asylum in northern Africa, so that some asylum seekers wouldn’t have to go to such extraordinary lengths to seek a safe haven.
Yet it’s here that we get to the real core of what’s going on. The Tories just don’t care about the lives of anyone who is desperately seeking a better life, despite the fact that they have knowingly contributed to that very desperation. What motivated my children’s birth mother to board a boat with two children under the age of 2 years, and risk her life and that of her kids, I can only imagine must have come from sheer desperation, and from a horrifying realisation that the risk of dying is a lesser one than the risk of staying where ever they were. To not show empathy and understanding towards that motivation can only be described as heartless and cruel.
It’s hardly news to say that politics has become corrupt and devoid of any moral compass, but situations like these bring politicians’ utter lack of humanity and compassion to the forefront. If the lives of those with the least power, those without a voice, the poorest of the poor have no value and are in fact expendable, then it’s a sign of where things are going. It’s a slippery slope that starts with the expendability of the lowest of the low and moves its way upwards and outwards. Sadly, choices like these reveal that our politicians have lost whatever humanity that they had, and, believe me, it is not just for those attempting to cross the Mediterranean. We can’t pick and choose our sense of humanity just for some select groups of people: we either have it for everyone or none at all. And by the looks of what’s going on right now, it seems beyond doubt that they have it for none at all.
So please sign this petition, and let’s let the UK government know that this can’t be done in our name. Voice your disgust; show you care and let the record show that all lives matter by signing up today.