The majority of migrants arriving to Europe’s coasts are seeking refuge from terrorists, violence, war and persecution. They are the threatened ones.
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love…
Psalm 107:4-8FEATURES AUTHOR Thomas Albinson NEW YORK 23 APRIL 2015 13:53 h BACKGROUND The capsizing of a boat carrying an estimated 850 desperate men, women and children from Libya to the shores of Southern Europe has once again put the dangerous human migration route across the Mediterranean into the publicspotlight. Only 28 lives were rescued.1 Assuming that this devastating death toll is confirmed, a total of 1,600 lives will have been lost in the waters between 1 January and 20 April, 2015. During this same period, more than 36,000 people reached the shores of Southern Europe. In 2014, 219,000 migrants survived the voyage. 3,500 migrants died at sea.2 The United Nations, governments, humanitarian agencies and faith leaders are struggling to come up with a satisfactory response to this unprecedented crisis in the region. PERSPECTIVE – THE GLOBAL BACKDROP The Mediterranean is one of the great crossroads of the Refugee Highway – the well-worn routes forcibly displaced people travel in search of safety, peace and a normal life. The map below documents such routes to and across the Sea.3 Some voices frame the Mediterranean crisis as a threat to the security and economy of Europe. Such a perspective identifies the flow of migrants as a problem to be stopped. They fear that rescuing migrants at sea will only serve to embolden others to attempt the crossing and further escalate the crisis. Perhaps they believe that the people boarding the boats in Libya have other options from which to choose. But do they? Why people board the boats People board the boats because they do not believe they have any other viable option. There are presently over 51 million forcibly displaced people on the planet to whom the world offers only three possible “solutions”: – Solution 1: Return to your country of origin. But refugee producing conflicts are increasingly protracted. Many go on for decades. 21 nations are presently engaged in such violence with no end in sight.4 – Solution 2: Integrate into your country of refuge. The trouble is that 86% of the world’s uprooted people are hosted by developing countries.5 These countries cannot possibly absorb and integrate all of the people seeking refuge within their borders. – Solution 3: Be resettled to another country. In any given year, less than 1% of the global refugee population is resettled. It is clear that these “solutions” fall far short of offering any real hope to the majority of uprooted people in the world. The lack of effective solutions has led to the average time of forced displacement to now be 17 years.6 That is why hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced people come up with a forth solution – risk everything to try and reach a stable country in which they can find refuge and rebuild their lives. It is this dangerous hope that fills boats headed to Europe with human cargo. Who is on the boats? At risk of oversimplification, we can imagine people pay smuggler’s fees and board overcrowded boats headed to Europe’s shores for 1 or more of the following 3 reasons.
- Many of those found on the boats are refugees – people forced to flee their countries. The majority of the 850 who were on the capsized boat last weekend were refugees from Eritrea (fleeing persecution), Syria (fleeing war) and Somalia (fleeing a failed state).7
- Many sub-Saharan Africans migrated to Libya looking for work. But violence between political factions has erupted once again and ISIS is gaining a foothold in the country, where they have begun executing Christians from sub-Saharan Africa. It is no wonder that many of these migrants now feel compelled to flee Libya. They are faced with the option of a dangerous desert crossing back south, or a dangerous sea crossing to Europe. Many choose the sea in hope that Europeans will understand their predicament and give them refuge.
- There are likely others who make their way to the Mediterranean with the aim of reaching Europe in order to improve their lives. They were not uprooted by war or persecution, but rather by economic despair. Unable to imagine a better future in their impoverished homeland, they risk everything to try and reach Europe. Often their families wait back home hoping to receive remittances to improve their lives.
- Psalm 107:1?8
- Psalm 142
- Psalm 146
- Psalm 5:11
- Matthew 25:34-40
- Exodus 2:15-22
- Acts 8:1-8
- Acts 18:1-4
- 1 Samuel 23:9-16
- Ruth 1:22 and 2:11-13