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Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Articles | 21 comments

When traveling is a matter of life or death…..

When traveling is a matter of life or death…..

For us, residents of the first world, traveling is all about fun and personal growth… Unfortunately, for some, it’s a matter of life and death.

I’ve been following the latest news with a lot of sadness and revolt. Everyday, small boats bring hundreds of illegal, desperate immigrants to Europe. They’re trying to escape the violence and wars back in their home country. More than half of this small boats bring children and women, some of them pregnant.

Europe has been turning their back to this humanitarian emergency, until the amount of deaths in the Mediterranean could no longer be ignored.

Our beloved Mediterranean sea, the reasons why so many of us Europeans travel to the beautiful southern shores, to enjoy its calm and warm waters, became the mass grave of many.

There has been more deaths in the Mediterranean by desperate migrants than the deaths caused by the Titanic accident and according to the Telegraph, “the Mediterranean is now the world’s most dangerous border in the world“.

 

“The journey they make is the humanitarian equivalent of leaping across the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, facing a very real risk of death in the hope of a better life.” The guardian

 

I’ve been holding so many mixed feelings… A mix of deep sadness and revolt for the condition of our southern neighbors, who are paying the high price of the involvement of Europe and USA on their internal affairs.  Yes, the situation was terrible when Gaddafi was keeping the country under oppression, but how is it better now?

 

 

On the other hand, I feel a mix of guilt and embarrassment for living a life, where traveling is a way of finding personal growth, inspiration and pure fun while others are risking their lives to cross a border in tiny boats.

While I play around on my PC, searching for the cheapest and most incredible adventures around the world, where I don’t even need a visa; my Syrian or Libyan neighbors are giving all their life savings to smugglers to escape war and being denied entrance. How can someone be a first class citizen and another a second class based on nationality?

 

In April 2015, at least five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people. Wikipedia

But who are these immigrants crossing the Mediterranean?

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Syrian mother desperately trying to keep her baby above the water….

 

Years of war, oppression and human rights abuses in countries like Syria, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia, are the main reason for the mass exodus across the Mediterranean.

The leading nationalities trying to escape their country are the Syrians and Libyans. Syria is now entering the 5th civil war.  Eritreans are the third nationality trying to flee their country, that is under one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Yemen, Mali and Gambia are among the other nationalities of people desperately trying to find a land where they can live in peace.

UNDERSTANDING THE CURRENT SITUATION IN LIBYA

You might remember the horrendous video of 12 christian Ethiopian men being beheaded by masked members of the Islamic state and other 16 being shot in the head in the desert. Then another one came out where you could see the ISIS beheading 21 captive Egyptian Christians at a Libyan beach.

After the fall of Gaddafi, Libya was left without a central government or real border control, becoming a safe haven for all sorts of militias and terrorists.  Women and children are being raped and used as sex slaves, while men are being murdered.

 

THE FEAR OF THE OUTSIDERS

As the “global research newspaper” states, WE the West are directly responsible for destabilizing north Africa: ” If the Libyan government were to lose control of the oilfields, it would disrupt the EU’s oil supply and raise prices at the pump. The US and EU’s decision to remove Muammar Gaddafi has created a terrorist haven in North Africa.”

Globalization, freedom to come and go seem to be a concept for us, white westerners. Or for commercial trade only. One thing is true: Europe is an aged continent that can’t even keep up with the social welfare system anymore. Europe needs to open its borders to immigration, to young families if it wants to survive and thrive.

 

 

Unlike the US, Europe’s recent history is “theoretically” not built by immigrants. Some of our borders, like the Portuguese one, have been stable since 1297, creating very closed societies who fear the outsiders.

I get it, people here in Europe are used to their old ways. There’s a certain hesitation to change. But sometimes, change is inevitable and urgent.

I strongly believe it’s time to open our borders, temporarily or permanently to some of our neighbors. This will not only relieve the humanitarian crisis at our door step, but will also help us save our declining economy and social welfare.

Maybe a system of quotas, similar to the one that exists in US is an urgent measure we need to adopt to welcome the refugees still in their home countries and allow them to come legally.

Our financial crisis followed by strong austerity measures, has been the fuel for the right-wing neo-nazi parties to attack and blame immigration. But when we look closer, the cities that have high numbers of immigrants – London, Paris, Barcelona, Zurich, NYC, LA, etc – are actually the richest ones in the world.

We can no longer pretend life is a fairy tale for everyone and traveling is all about fun…. For some, is a matter of life and death…. I think about this often, even though I don’t express it as much as I should.

ITS OUR DUTY TO HELP THEM FIX THE MESS THE WEST CREATED

Let’s not be naive and selfish to think: “this is their problem.” This is not THEIR problem, this is OUR problem! This is a humanitarian problem.

It’s very easy for some to say their heart breaks when they hear a few thousand more people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, but then, we go on with our lives and forget about it.

But what do you feel when images of dead children take over your facebook page and slap you in the face for the horrors these people are living?

chi

Dead child still wearing diappers reaches the coast… dead….

 

It could be you or me. It could be your child. We could have been in that situation if we were born in one of the countries that have been so deeply destabilized by the west. These are the people that part of the “white middle class society” wants to keep out of Europe. These are the people that neo-nazi rally against.

 

ch

Drownded little girl arrives to Europe….

 

child

A dead little girl reaches the coast…. drowned….

Is this the world you want to live in?

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THIS SITUATION? SHARE THEM WITH US ON THE COMMENT SECTION BELLOW.

21 Comments

  1. It’s upsetting the atrocities that happen around the world. I try and stay informed but by doing I find that it’s too depressing. I feel guilty living my good life knowing others are suffering. Recently I’ve taken a big interest in ethical/sustainable travel, I when I chose to travel, I try to avoid places where travel nay negatively impact on local communities. It’d be great if there were ethical/sustainable travel agents where you could learn about how you can use travel to positively contribute to communities, and conservation and wildlife projects. Sorry if I’ve gone off topic!

    • Sarah, I totally agree with you. Unfortunately responsible tourism, that actually makes a positive impact in the lives of local people is not the main option for the majority. I have the hope people will sooner or later feel more interested in meaningful travel, than just having holidays.

  2. Quality travel blog article. People have different circumstances in life and dealing with our differences says a lot about our personality and character.

    • Thank you for your words Mar. I wish more travel bloggers would write about these subjects more and bring the word to as many people as possible.

  3. As a rwandese immigrant now living in Canadá, thank you so much for writing this. People in the West need to understand that the People that are dying are like them and that i could also happen to them.If they understand that then they Will welcome those immigrants

  4. Thank you for posting this Yara. I’m currently planning for my travels in Europe but seeing the pictures depresses me… We are all people, but why are they treated like that just because they were born in a different side of the world..

    For those who would like to travel in ethical and sustainable ways.. and helping communities while they travel in Asia, please let me know, i would gladly assist.

    • Thank you for reading and thinking about what’s going on the other side of the pond….

  5. :(:(

  6. thank you so much for writing this article. it is essential that people speak up against the increasing xenophobic hostility being expressed in the media and others right now. and it is essential that the people consider the reasons why people are forced to flee their homes to make such dangerous and desperate journeys.

    • When I read the news about anti-immigration rallies and massive protests against refugees my heart sinks. I feel deeply ashamed. I think right now, the politically correct fake image Europe always portraited is falling appart. There’s a lot of racism in Europe, against others… against southern Europeans as well.

      What is happening in the Mediterranean is an embarrasment for everyone. It’s our problem and we HAVE to help these people urgently.

  7. A brilliant article. Currently I am almost daily discussing this subject with people I know here in Germany and who I thought tolerant. The of strangers, envy of the refugees getting money (and its hardly enough to live in dignity), while they feel they havent got enough is extremely wide spread. I feel ashamed and get agitated trying to reason against these uninformed fears. I see it as you, it needs a radical change in politics,the first world needs to stop using the African continent as source of natural ressources to be exploited. I have the feeling that the European governments were quite content with people blaming foreigners for the feeling disadvantaged, taking the perspective from politics that are no longer interested in the improvement and thriving of the people living there, neglecting families, children and education, but in economical growth at the cost of exploitation of their own people and of the people in third world countries. I think the quiet ignorance of migrants dying on their way here at first has fueled the rising mob here, just now, that the world starts watching and it is so many people on the run, they finally get moving in the government…and it all seems to be half hearted still.
    Read this joke recently: An asylumseeker, an investmentbanker and a boulevardpress reader sit in cafe. On the table are 20 cookies. The investmentbanker takes 19, turns to the press reader and says:”Watch-the asylumseeker wants your cookie!”

    • Nurith, Europeans are a bunch of spoiled little kids, who got their cooky by taking the ingredients of the other kids and now complain the other kids who are starving want a bit of the cookie too.

      Germany has been a problem in Europe seince the second world war, it’s a highly racist nation with neo-nazi rallies going on against imigration. It’s a country that owes millions to Greece but doesn’t want to pay back, instead is forcing Greece into a decline, but let’s not get there….

      These people are not numbers, they’re humans like you and me and deserve protection, temporarily or permanently, doesn’t matter…. We can’t have children losing their lives crossing the Mediterraneans, we’re not living in the middle freaking age!

      My heart sank when I saw those photos…

      • Hi Yara, quick reply to your reply. First off, I fully agree with your article and the dearly needed shift towards humanity rather than number management.

        But your comment about Germany stings a bit with me. Because you are generalising a whole nation on the basis of a select few.
        Yes, the way the whole thing with Greece went down was highly disconcerting, but on both sides. Though especially in Germany I don’t think that had much to do with racism, more with a sense of upholding “German virtues” such as diligence and hard work for the greater good. And staging an example of what happens if you don’t.

        But back to racism / neo-nazism. Yes, it absolutely exists and the results have been horrible in the past weeks, but the exact same tendencies in other countries. Just think of Farage in the UK or Geert Wilders here in the Netherlands. And I sometimes think that those are even worse because they make it to a political level and their voice actually carries and influences people. But on the other side of those people are the other ones that take in refugees, give them language lessons, offer their services as a doctor, donate stuff and so on and so forth. One side always brings the other into appearance.

        And the specific reason I replied, you preach to treat refugees like humans, but I think we shouldn’t just apply that to refugees but keep it in mind everyday and apply it to everyone. And always be careful to cast quick aspersion onto anyone, be it a refugee, an “economic migrant”, a greek, or the whole german nation.

  8. Thanks for this article Yara.
    I must say I do not see how traveling or not traveling could influence this tragedy. I do not think our traveling is anyhow related to this… Yes, we have to be aware that our passports and nationality is an immense privilege, and that most people, even if they have the money, cannot travel as we do, as they will never get the required visa (especially to Europe and the USA).
    It is not only Europe’s responsibility, the USA have had also an immense responsibility in destabilizing the whole area (northern Africa & the Middle East), but Europe is closer.
    Now yes, Europeans should take their responsibility. Millions of Christians are endangered by what now takes dimensions of a genocide in mostly Arabic & moslem countries and we turn our heads (isn’t Europe Christian?). Millions of people are endangered in many countries (Libya & Syria as you mentioned, yes, Eritrea, which is a prison at the scale of a country, …) and we do not want to accept a few thousands.
    Now you mention the rise of extreme rights in Europe. And yes, this is a huge issue. This is actualy, in my opinion, the most dangerous aspect in Europe currently. How long will it take before other countries than Hungary elect some kind of neo-facist governments. Not so long, I am really scared. Look at Austria, France, Netherlands, Poland, … The poles are frightening!
    This subject should be the center of European politics: as you mention, new immigration (selected immigration) could be the motor of new growth. But it must be debated so that it is accepted. Unfortunately, politics is about short term and people ignominy countries are self centered. So the destiny and the tragedy of millions is of no real importance…
    This is frightening.

    • Gilles, thank you for your comment. Our traveling is not relate to this, but I’m comparing our freedom of movement, our ability to move around without visas just because we’re white middle class European/Americans/Australians….. These people only want one thing in life, escape war and live in a safe place, even if temporarily and they’re denied help.

  9. This is a brilliant post Yara. We have a similar situation in Australia with people smugglers trying to bring people by boat from Indonesia and Malaysia. Unfortunately, our government is run by some of the coldest-hearted humans on the planet because what they do now is literally tow the boats out of Australian waters over the open ocean and then dump the asylum seekers on the shore of the nearest Indonesian island…it’s abhorrent. (You may have seen me posting about the show Go Back To Where You Came From on Facebook – if you ever get the chance I highly recommend watching it, I think it’s on YouTube if you can’t find it anywhere else).

    It’s incredibly upsetting to hear people saying things like “stop the boats” and “queue jumpers” when really, at the bottom of it, we are all humans. Nobody ever deserves the circumstances they find themselves in and it’s pure dumb luck that you and I are safe and happy while they are desperate and in danger. Can’t we all just open our hearts enough to look after our fellow human beings? Nobody would make such a dangerous life-threatening journey unless they were absolutely, desperately terrified at the prospect of NOT making the journey.

    • Yes Karyn, it’s pure luck that we were born where we were born…. we would be in their shoes if we would have been born there. I know Australia’s reputation for being one of the most racist countries in the world. I think ultimately racism is everywhere, in some places more hidden than others but it’s when situations like these happen that we realize that even the political correct continents – like Europe are full of BS!

      It’s inadmissable that humans have gone to the moon, have found the solution for so many diseases, evolved technologically, but can’t seem to get along… We’re still in pre-history of human rights.

    • Yes Karyn, it’s pure luck that we were born where we were born…. we would be in their shoes if we would have been born there. I know Australia’s reputation for being one of the most racist countries in the world. I think ultimately racism is everywhere, in some places more hidden than others but it’s when situations like these happen that we realize that even the political correct continents – like Europe are full of BS!

      It’s inadmissible that humans have gone to the moon, have found the solution for so many diseases, evolved technologically, but can’t seem to get along… We’re still in pre-history of human rights.

  10. Thank you very much for your post Yara. Nothing but truth here, and it’s a complete relief to see someone writing about refugees with so much honesty.

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