NEW YORK - Her name was Loujin. She was four years old. She died adrift at sea because of deliberate European policy, writes Human Rights Watch.
Yes, deliberate. The European Union has thought about its approach towards people desperately trying to reach the safety of its Mediterranean shores. They have deliberated – discussed carefully at long length – and have opted for a policy of, as my colleague Jude Sunderland puts it, “deterrence by drowning and dehydration.”
Specifically, they’ve decided that EU ships should not actively patrol anywhere near where most boats fall into distress. They’ve decided that Frontex, the EU’s border and coast guard, conducts aerial surveillance in service of interceptions and returns, not rescues.
They’ve decided that four-year-old girls will die.
The hope of EU policy makers – if such twisted intentions can be called “hope” – is that their inhumanity will send a “tough signal” that stops people getting into the boats. As if innocent lives can be sacrificed to send a political message…
And it doesn’t work anyway. People are not deterred by the EU’s callous signaling. Driven by desperation, they keep coming – and keep dying.
More than 1,200 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2022, adding to the almost unimaginable tally of nearly 25,000 deaths since 2014.
Syrian children have been among the latest victims. Last week, it was Loujin, who set off from Lebanon. This week saw three kids – ages 1, 2, and 12 – perishing on a journey from Turkey.
None of this has to happen. This is happening by choice. A policy choice.
In abdicating their responsibility to ensure search and rescue in the Mediterranean, EU policy makers are not ignorant fools. They’re educated people who know what they’re doing and who know the horrific consequences of their actions.
We don’t have to convince them that deaths like Loujin’s are happening because of their policy. Much more disturbingly, we have to convince them that it’s wrong.