Reflections about the migration situation in the Mediterranean


The Mediterranean is a mass grave. Last year, the International Organisation for Migration recorded 3,789 deaths of refugees crossing the sea or the Sahara. The real number will never be known. To these names must be added at least another 78 refugees who died in the sea off the coast of Greece after the fishing boat carrying them capsized. The number of victims could be much higher. According to some of the occupants of the boat, which is believed to have departed from Tobruk in eastern Libya, it was carrying 750 passengers.

These deaths are reported as if they were an accident. But they are not an accident. They are the predictable result of deliberate policies to build Fortress Europe. Last year, Progressive International and Forensic Architecture revealed the Greek government’s systematic policy of turning back drifting refugee boats. The study maps over 1,000 cases, the hidden stories of entire families – fleeing war and persecution – who have been denied the chance to make their case for refuge and asylum.

Instead, with the consent of the European Union, the Greek authorities violate the international laws to prevent their arrival and abandon them to their fate at sea. This massive and systematic crime is committed with the silent consent of the EU, contrary to its laws and international commitments. Our archive documents 112 cases in which the European border agency FRONTEX admits its involvement, and 417 in which it had direct knowledge of local operations.

Fortress Europe grew higher this week as the EU pushed the governments of Libya and Tunisia further to act as subcontracted border guards. In Libya, the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM) inaugurated a new training centre for the Libyan Border Guard. The inauguration ceremony was characterised by orwellian journalistic slang when Jerome Buaillon, EUBAM’s head of operations in Libya, proclaimed “together, we will transform borders from barriers into bridges for prosperity and peace”. Tell that to the friends and families of those who drowned this week.

The EU sent a high-level delegation to Tunisia to achieve similar ends, as well as to promote an IMF package with the african country. The delegation composed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed their support for a deal with the Tunisian government comparable to the one in Libya. The EU will provide 100 million euros to Tunisia this year to prevent refugees from reaching Europe. Violence must, as far as possible, be externalised and hidden. The mass exodus of people will not be stopped by deeper mass graves, higher walls or better-funded border militias. A new report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released this week reveals that there are a record 110 million displaced people worldwide. This shocking number is expected to nearly double by the end of the decade, as climate collapse drives movements as food and water systems in some parts of the world can no longer support human life. It is estimated that the number of climate refugees could reach a frightening 1.2 billion people by 2050.

Through war, economic pillage and climate chaos, the world’s leaders are turning much of our planet into hostile terrain for human life. The refugees of today and tomorrow, who seek a safe place for themselves and their families as much as any of us would, will not be forced to escape or receive the support, care and love they deserve if the world’s governments change. In Europe and the United States, the ruling elite and their far-right allies use the desperate situation of those fleeing for their lives to secure their dominance, arguing that only they can defend their nationals against these new arrivals.

Progressive International denounces this vile trick for what it is: a cruel lie. We refuse to look away from the crimes against humanity being committed at the borders. We call to tear down Fortress Europe to protect the lives of all refugees – and to hold responsible those who would turn the Mediterranean into their graveyard. The only practical solution for our common humanity is to dismantle the war machine and Big Oil that drives movements, and to combine our efforts beyond borders in a common defence of people and the planet.