Enormous numbers of people are fleeing impoverished countries for wealthier ones that often don’t know how to receive them—and in many cases don’t want to. Following a month of anti-immigration violence in South Africa, news is breaking this morning that the government will deploy its army to the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg.
And while violence against the immigrants when they arrive at their final destination is deplorable and is usually what ends up dominating the headlines, it’s the many untold stories of hardship, exploitation and sometimes death that represent the true costs of this mess. With some outlets announcing that the toll from this weekend’s Mediterranean disaster may reach 900, what has become a global immigration crisis is finally seizing the world’s attention.
Italian Prime Minister gave a heartfelt appeal on Monday ahead of an emergency summit for EU leaders today:
“Twenty years ago we closed our eyes, along with Europe, when faced with Srebrenica,” Mr Renzi said, referring to the Bosnian war massacre. “We cannot close our eyes again.”
Renzi is right. The implosion of Libya and the desperate poverty of Africa are combining to create one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time. It is also a major security risk and policy challenge for Europe; the United States, having contributed to the wreckage, seems to be have little to offer. Between the civil war in Syria, the chaos in Libya, the mess in Iraq and the collapse of Yemen, the situation in the Middle East is about as bad as its been at any point in modern times. Neither our European allies nor the peoples of the Middle East hear plans or counsel adequate in any way to the gravity of the times coming from the White House.
President Obama has 21 months left in his tenure; let us hope he makes good use of them.