Nearly sixty years ago Cubans were leaving Cuba by boat. They were crossing the sea to get to Florida. They were fleeing the tyranny of Fidel Castro.
Many lives were lost because the boats were small and the sea dangerous. But there is one big difference between the Cuban boatlifts then and what is taking place in Asia and Europe today.
Many of the fleeing Cubans were from the middle-class. In general, they were welcomed in the United States. They were given political asylum. Many went on to become American citizens.
It is not the same now in the Mediterranean and Andaman Seas. Thousands are fleeing Myanmar (formerly Burma). They are part of the Rohingya Muslim minority. They are running from persecution. Thousands of Bangladeshis are fleeing poverty in their country. They are trying to reach Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Southeast Asian nations are not trying to rescue these migrants at sea. Fishermen are rescuing them.
Elsewhere, thousands are traveling on the Mediterranean from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalis heading toward Libya. They are trying to reach Italy, Greece, and Malta. Some are leaving Turkey, headed over land to Bulgaria and Greece.
Smugglers are ruthlessly exploiting these migrants. They take all their money and put them on boats that are not seaworthy. Then they abandon them to fate.
The European Union (EU) does not know what to do. There is no system to send the arriving migrants on to different countries. The sea rescue program works, but it results in bringing in more people.
Everyone wants to break up the smuggling programs in Libya, which sends the migrants to Europe. Few think they will be able to do so.
It is a humanitarian crisis.
The EU is looking to the United Nations for help. All nations have a right to protect their borders. It would not be easy for warships from the EU to go to Libya and attack smuggling operations.
It is dangerous for migrants who seek to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S. In comparison, hundreds and thousands of deaths are occurring overseas as people flee their home countries.
Source: The Washington Post May 20, 2015