Mediterranean refugees' plight will make you weep for humanity – Kenny MacAskill MP

It’s quite a while now since I read Sonia Nazario’s outstanding book, Enrique’s Journey. It narrates the efforts of a young lad from Honduras to join his mother in the promised land of the USA.

It’s heartrending about the risks and dangers faced, and eye-opening about the guilt felt by the absent mothers sending remittances home, often earned from looking after wealthy Americans children. If you asked me whether another book on migration could have greater impact, I’d doubt it.

In recent years, the memories of bodies floating in the Mediterranean have faded and refugee stories have been most about policies such as flights to Rwanda, or heart-warming tales of care for Ukrainians fleeing their war-ravaged land.

But I’m reading Sally Hayden’s My Fourth Time, We Drowned, and it’s the bleakest book I’ve ever read. It narrates the story of Africans seeking to cross the Med into Europe, the world’s most dangerous migration route.

The risks are even greater than in Central America and on the US border, and the treatment endured is more barbaric than on that continent – even under Trump.

People are fleeing war or conscription in the Horn of Africa or grinding poverty and crime in West Africa. It’s not a train through Mexico and crossing the Wall or Rio Grande, it’s a journey across the Sahara and then attempts to cross the sea on inflatable boats.

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More drown or are turned back to Libya than ever make it. The book is raw: a lifeless, drowned woman floats in the water, with her new-born child still attached by the umbilical cord. No one takes that risk for themselves or their child except through desperation.

A woman tries to board a rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea after her vessel sank, with the deaths of five people, including a new-born child (Picture: Alessio Paduano/AFP via Getty Images)

Of course, we hear little of their plight now. The book narrates how the United Nations has been corrupted, the European Union is conniving and many aid agencies failing. Thank goodness for Médecins Sans Frontières, one of the few organisations to come out with credit.

Libya or its militias are paid to do Europe’s dirty work. Desperate people are incarcerated in that country across the water from Europe’s shores. These poor people are left in the hands of those who mistreat them and even enslave them.

Read the book and weep for humanity. This cannot be allowed to continue. It’s even worse than flights to Rwanda.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian


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