A telling commentary on the differences in definitions of words and phrases like justice, liberalism, equality, rehabilitation, resettlement, etc between the letter and the deeds; makes clear the fundamental problem in the basic coinage of words like refugees, rehabilitation and smuggling
‘My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route’ by a young Irish writer, Sally Hayden, is a pointed and painful account of the travails undergone by the privilege-less, suffering and disadvantaged citizens of Africa. One recoils with shock many a time during the book, reading about the stone-heartedness of the so-called liberal West towards the suffering migrants of North Africa. The book is an encapsulation of the failing of the migrants by the entire world around them. It is a summary of the abject rejection of the less fortunate beings at the hands of all the organizations wherein the world puts its trust in such matters, most notably the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Kudos to the writer for having ensured that the book is highly readable in terms of its simple and plain writing.
Warsan Shire, a British-Somali writer, in her poem ‘Home’, has written, “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border / when you see the whole city / running as well.” People do leave homes for better pastures. They have always done so, mostly out of choice. But the migration across the turbulent Mediterranean Sea, with all types of vultures pockmarking the journey, is no real search for El dorados land, but a quest to satisfy one’s basic instinct to survive. It is to avoid the ravages of war, evade the forced military conscription, the endless persecution, the pangs of hunger and the ever-exacerbating climate change. While there might be a temporary attenuation in the number of migrants entering stone-walled Europe, the world today is largely a world of migrants, forced as well as voluntary, and is going to be so in the coming future. For the migrants from the North-African countries like Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Sudan, Niger, Libya, etc, the migration is hellish all through, till the dead-end where they are intercepted by the Libyan Coastguards at the high sea.
The book mainly focuses on the people displaced forcibly from the North African countries, even though the hypocritical silence of the privileged few in Europe and North America gets questioned through the reasoned arguments made by the author, albeit latently in between. It focuses on how Libya, a country torn between dysfunctional state machinery, lobbyist gangs, spread-out and networked militias, raging inequalities and a history of deceit, became the pivot for realising the vision of the European Union to stop the migrations across the Mediterranean. It also severely indicts the high and lofty claims made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and countless Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In particular, the focus is the UNHCR’S inability, incapacity and illogical absence from the ground zero of things.
The normal journey of an African displaced person is to contact some smuggler, wait for months together, be separated from the family, sit in some dingy rubber boat, starved for days together, many of the fellow travelers drowning, and then get intercepted by the Libyan Coastguards who work in alliance with the European Union Trust Fund. The book is a detailed summary of how men, women and children are made to get confined to cramped hell-holes like Triq-al-siqqa, Zintan, Abu Salim, etc in and around Tripoli and Benghazi. These camps are the dens of beatings, sexual violence, xenophobia, murder and starvation, with all the aid organisations absent from the scene. The biggest beneficiaries of the million-and-billion dollar deals are the powerful militiamen, smugglers and the United Nations aid agency workers. The book is a telling commentary on the differences in definitions of words and phrases like justice, liberalism, equality, rehabilitation, resettlement, etc between the letter and the deeds.
The last part mostly focuses on the politics surrounding the issues of migration and the heightened polarization towards the right of the centre across nations like Italy, Germany, Hungary, Denmark, etc. It also makes it clear that there is a fundamental problem in the basic coinage of the words like refugees, rehabilitation and smuggling. Besides, one gets to have a clear-cut understanding of what makes Scandinavian countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway accepting of their share of refugees.
In a world where the phenomenon of migration is going to be ever-expanding, the book is a nice addition to the fact of how the developing world is to source of around 83 per cent of the displaced people. Also, how women and children are the ultimate sufferers of the ramrod approach of Europe and North America.
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