Responsible commentary on the smuggling of migrants into Europe must begin with an answer to the question of a five-year-old Syrian refugee: "Daddy, why don't we just take the airplane?"
The painful truth is that European Union policy intentionally prevents refugees from accessing safe and legal means of transportation, leaving them no choice but to risk their lives on dangerous and illegal smuggling voyages. Despite frigid winter weather, thousands continue to make the trip, which has resulted in nearly 400 deaths so far this year. While the E.U. has dutifully decried the "crisis," its most recent actions will only make things worse for refugees.
Just last week, the E.U. struck a hasty agreement with NATO to deploy warships to intimidate migrants seeking refuge on European soil. With this unprecedented level of militarization, Europe (and the rest of NATO) is treating these refugees like foreign invaders.
Perversely, the E.U. has disguised this effort to exclude refugees as an attempt to protect these desperate migrants from exploitative smugglers and human traffickers. But the reality is that the E.U.'s exclusionary migration policy is precisely why these refugees are turning to smugglers in the first place.
It is a man’s voice, low and sombre. My eyes drift down the hall that leads off from the snug kitchen where I sit. In the milky light of the November sunset, I see Musa, a wiry middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper beard, prostrated in prayer. “Allahu Akbar,” he repeats, sitting up. Beside him, his twenty-three-year-old daughter, Nuna, follows his cue, her bent head enwrapped in a scarf of delicate floral print.
I glance across the table at Miriam, Nuna’s mother. Her small shoulders are slumping, her eyes distant despite the weak smile she’s pasted to her face. Quiet fills the room as the last light drains from the windows. It is November 14, a Saturday, and this weekend I am the guest of Nuna and her normally-effusive Egyptian family. It was in this devout Muslim household in a New York City suburb that I first heard the news of the Paris attacks. (more...)