Reports about African migrants dying to breathe free have become so normalized that they hardly register in public consciousness, let alone prick our collective conscience.
From the BBC, May 10: “At least 65 migrants have died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tunisia…The incident is thought to be one of the deadliest shipwrecks involving migrants since the start of the year…The passengers are understood to have been from sub-Saharan Africa.”
Have you heard?
Did you know about this latest tragedy? Even if you did, chances are that you’d probably stay inured and carry on unconcerned about how normalized such tragedies have become.
According to a UN report, an average of six migrants died every day in 2018 trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve been lamenting these serial tragedies for years. Hence my assertion that they’ve become normalized, which betrays the utter futility of my commentaries.
Some of my despairing titles read like alarms nobody heard: “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors” in 2005; “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem” in 2013; “African Migrants (Still) Turning Mediterranean Sea into a Vast Cemetery” in 2016; “Africans Selling Africans as Slaves…Again” in 2017; “Colonial Ties Have Europe in Knots Over African Migration” in 2018.
Nonetheless, my conscience remains sensitized. I feel a little of our shared humanity dying every time I read about migrants dying for the freedoms we take for granted.
History (and God, ultimately) will judge African and European leaders harshly for dealing with this migration crisis so inhumanely. But I have already rendered judgment, damning them jointly and severally in many commentaries. Here, for example, is what I wrote in the Lampedusa commentary cited above:
It speaks volumes that Europeans are ascribing no blame for this Lampedusa tragedy to the African governments that have failed their people so abysmally. This failure, after all, is the only reason so many Africans, utterly bereft of hope at home, are fleeing to Europe in desperate pursuit of peace, prosperity, and happiness. But I suppose this self-recrimination among European governments demonstrates how difficult it is for them to sever that umbilical cord of colonial obligation…
I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any African leader who has done more to redress this crisis than German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And even her record is not without blemish.
You’d also be hard-pressed to find any African aid worker who has called out fellow Africans the way Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, called out fellow Europeans on January 23:
“I remember when European leaders, organisations and columnists in 1989 expressed their collective outrage about those who had died fleeing across the crumbling Berlin Wall…Around 250 died trying to escape across the Berlin Wall during the three decades from 1961 to 1989; ten times as many, 2,000-3,000 [African] men, women and children, now die every single year in their attempt to escape their hopelessness and reach protection and a better life in Europe. The silence surrounding these mass drownings is unacceptable and hypocritical.”
Granted, these African migrants might just be European chickens from colonial days coming home to roost. And it might be collective guilt more than shared humanity that is motivating Europeans like Merkel and Egeland.
But only man’s inhumanity to man explains generations of African leaders doing so little to redress this migration, and showing so little concern about the fate of their migrants.
Regrettably, these leaders seem incapable of feeling any shame. Because only a modicum of it would prevent any African leader from ever setting foot in Europe until Africans implemented African solutions to solve this (African) migration crisis.
And speaking of damning silence, don’t get me started on American leaders, especially Black ones. Because, as far as they’re concerned, these African tragedies might as well be playing out on Mars.