Lampedusa’s lesson for Australia & the Rest of the World.

The decision by Italian authorities to hold a State Funeral for the several hundred men, women and children who died after a fire was started on their boat as they were fleeing North Africa for a better life in Europe is tokenism at its worst, and comes too late for the victims of this terrible tragedy. Yet there are lessons to be learned for all Nations confronted with the unexpected arrival of displaced peoples.
Migration from one country to another to seek a different life should be everyone’s inalienable right. An objective look at a world map with its curious colored boundaries, where people are separated by language, politics, economics, religion and culture denies the obvious-our shared humanity. Instead it promotes the pernicious idea that one has either a positive or negative right to life depending on where they’re born.
Illegal immigration and human trafficking are symptoms of another more pressing global problem-the unfolding drama of mass migration due to climate change, war, crime, political oppression and terrible poverty. And until these are addressed and fixed criminal gangs will continue to seek out and exploit the most vulnerable who live in the worst of the geographical, political, economic and social environments in our world. They will extort huge sums of money from them with promises of realizing their great American or European dream. They will squash them into dilapidated, unseaworthy wrecks, or pack them like produce into trucks and transit vehicles and smuggle them into countries wrongly perceived as offering these hopeful migrants a better way of life. The sad irony is that those hopefuls who survive the ordeal hardly end up in a Promised Land. And perhaps what is more shocking is that those people charged with political, social and immigration responsibilities and duties in the countries where these unfortunates end up, deal with them in the same ruthless manner as the human traffickers. They treat these people with political expediency and a cold, calculating indifference to their desperate plight.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Australia-the land of plenty-a country which could quite easily hold up to a quarter more of its current population. Australia is one of the largest single land masses in the world. It is rich in natural resources and home to a mere 22 million people. But it has a pernicious and punishing anti-illegal immigrant policy, at one point sending potential immigrants to the phosphate bird-dung infected island of Naru.
Nowadays, well-meaning politicians and their supporters from all spectrums of the political divide in Australia send these hopeful immigrants, who are often traumatized through war, violence and political oppression to the failed State of Papua New Guinea, with its own internal wars (at one point it had two Prime Ministers who behaved like the anti Popes of the 3rd and 15th centuries) and out of control crime, rapes and murders. Banished to Manus Island, the hopeful migrants are locked up like common criminals and treated worse than petty offenders. They may be stuck with the ‘status of a non-person’ for years. In Australia, this extremely selfish example of political convenience is supported through an extreme culture of xenophobia which is endemic throughout the country and reinforces the absurd notion that some human beings are less worthy and less deserving than others. Yet, Australia isn’t alone when it comes to the harsh treatment of people who are the victims of the trade in illegal immigration. All wealthy industrialized countries show a growing intolerance and a lack of compassion for their fellow human beings. In doing so, they ignore the immense human drama of mass, forced migration unfolding in the world today, as millions flee the horrors of war, poverty, climate change and economic and political oppression. More open, tolerant and supportive immigration policies from the wealthiest countries is what is required, rather than the well-off assuaging their guilt over the dead through a State Funeral.