May 6, 2015

Interdependence & Immigration: Drawing on Buddhist Principles could Save Migrant Lives.


Hundreds of thousands of migrants are charting dangerous courses across the Mediterranean to reach the shores of Italy or Greece—or anywhere in Europe where they might live and work in peace and provide a safer life for their children.

Two weeks ago, 800 migrants from Syria, Eritrea, and Libya drowned! Only 27 survived.

This past Sunday, May 3rd, Italy’s Coast Guard and navy along with tugs and commercial vessels—16 boats in all—rescued 5,800 off the coast of Libya. Ten died, but the survivors were brought safely to Italian shores.

Smugglers continue to take advantage of the anarchy in Libya and the calm sea, packing vessels in attempts to score $90,000 a vessel on average. This is a high-risk voyage—over 1,300 migrants have died in the past month!

Last year 170,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean and it looks like 2015 there will be more.

European leaders in Brussels and Luxembourg were pushing through an emergency plan last week to patrol and rescue these migrants and increase efforts to settle them throughout Europe. By April 23 they had committed extra ships, planes, and helicopters to save lives and have agreed to take military action against traffickers.

I have a German friend who says that even in her small town in Germany there are migrants and that they have been welcomed and have become a part of the community. But sadly this is not always the case.

As a Buddhist, and like most scientists, I recognize the irrefutable interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. As a retired history teacher, I also cannot ignore Africa’s colonial past and arbitrary, Western-made boundaries that respected neither traditional tribal areas nor cultures—nor even the natural boundaries of nature. More recently the “Arab Spring” has brought more chaos than democracy, and war plus corporate greed have ransacked the countries from which migrants presently flee—countries like Eritrea where there are allegations that at least one Canadian mine used forced labor.

Meanwhile in Canada the Conservative government is trying to evict 70,000 longtime migrant workers who have been willing to work in jobs that even unemployed Canadians refuse. And this is at a time when Canada’s aging white population should be encouraging immigration!

Likewise, the goal of U.S. Republicans seems to be merely to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican border, desperate people–often children—escaping equally horrendous conditions in Latin America. Clearly that policy is not working!

The irony is that if we really look into our roots we find that we are all descendants of immigrants, in many cases immigrants who were just as desperate as these migrants for a fresh start in life.

Italy and Sicily have been most heroic in opening ports to the flood of migrants who have been risking their lives to make the crossing. But this should not just be Europe’s problem. If we acknowledge interdependence, the fact that our well-being is not isolated from the well-being of others, surely North America—both Canada and the United States—could be more generous in their immigration policies.

We are, after all, nations of immigrants.






Refugee Relief: Firsthand Accounts of Shipwrecked Migrants in the Mediterranean.




Author: Linda Lewis 

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Google images 



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