If it’s any consolation, we also treat people horribly

Traffickers are overloading boats to enable people to flee terrible conditions in North Africa and the Middle East, with disastrous results.

In the early hours of Wednesday, 14 June, an old fishing vessel carrying up to 750 people capsized and sank 47 miles off the Greek coast.

So far 79 people have been confirmed as dead. Only 104 had been rescued by the time the search was called off, so it’s possible that more than 600 people have been lost in total. Survivors report that the boat sank “in minutes” in a place where the sea is four kilometres deep. It is unlikely the bodies, including up to 100 children, will ever be found.

The battered fishing vessel left from Tobruk, eastern Libya, and was heading for Italy despite Greece being a closer destination. The reason why is clear. In the past three years, Greece has enacted an increasingly harsh policy of pushbacks, making it almost impossible for asylum-seekers to arrive safely on Greek territory.

Many of the victims were Pakistani. You’ve got to wonder how bad life is in Pakistan that they would risk drowning or Greece, where the survivors have now been thrown into barren warehouses under armed guard. They must have been hoping to reach civilized Great Britain, that land of prosperity and liberty that would treat them with dignity and respect.

I’m joking, of course.

If any of the survivors of the shipwreck make it to Calais, and brave another crossing over the English Channel, their reception will be no better than in Greece. Starting later this month, the Home Office plans to house people seeking asylum in the UK onboard a barge that has been likened to a floating prison by multiple organisations, including MSF UK.

The Bibby Stockholm is a barge that has been designed for 220 people. Is currently being refitted in Falmouth to accommodate 500 asylum seekers. It has been the target of an ongoing resistance campaign led by local groups, with regular protests and actions linking up to the #NoFloatingPrisons campaign launched by my refugee support organisation Reclaim The Sea.

Prison hulks are a long and dishonorable tradition in English history. Respect history!

Don’t forget or forgive America, either — we’re pretty casual about wrecking countries outside our borders, creating the refugees that are fleeing to their oppressors.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Read about the coastal barrackoons where slave smugglers in the South dumped slaves in holes underground, while waiting for the human cargo to be distributed further.

    If the smugglers thought they had been observed, they abandoned their prisoners to starve and thirst to death in darkness.
    One of these monsters was the business partner of Bowie (the one who died at Alamo).

  2. markp8703 says

    “Prison hulks are a long and dishonorable tradition in English history.”

    You forgot “recent”. HMP The Weare was moored in Portland Harbour from 1997 to 2005.

  3. stuffin says

    To stop migration (fleeing one’s homeland) these modernized countries need to address the cause(s). When people move, job to job or country to county, they are either being pushed from where they are, or are drawn to a new place of their choice.

    Most likely these immigrants are being affected by the pushing part of this equation. They are not being offered a safe productive life where they live. This forces their hand, and they make an insane decision to risk their lives and the lives of their family, for something better.

    Attack the cause, solve the problem. Prisons and drownings are not attacking the cause.

  4. raven says

    It is likely to get worse due to that climate change that doesn’t exist. (/s)

    This article uses an empirical approach to define the human ecological niche.

    .1. Humans live in a temperature niche of 11-15 degrees C Mean Annual Temperature.
    The same is true for our crops and lifestock since we rely on agriculture to exist.
    .2. Right now, this is 99.2% of the earth.
    .3. By the year 2073 with our current rate of global warming, 30% of the current global population will be out of this temperature range for Mean Annual Temperature.
    .4. Some or many of those people living in those areas are going to end up as climate refugees moving northward.
    That is one possiblity anyway.
    They may be able to adapt to the higher temperatures.
    Or, they may end up dead one way or another.

    I can see problems with this article, not their data, but their conclusions from that data but nevertheless, there is likely to be some relevance to it.

    Future of the human climate niche
    Chi Xu https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1841-9032 xuchi@nju.edu.cn, Timothy A. Kohler, Timothy M. Lenton https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6725-7498, +1, and Marten Scheffer xuchi@nju.edu.cn
    May 4, 2020
    117 (21) 11350-11355

    All species have an environmental niche, and despite technological advances, humans are unlikely to be an exception. Here, we demonstrate that for millennia, human populations have resided in the same narrow part of the climatic envelope available on the globe, characterized by a major mode around ∼11 °C to 15 °C mean annual temperature (MAT). Supporting the fundamental nature of this temperature niche, current production of crops and livestock is largely limited to the same conditions, and the same optimum has been found for agricultural and nonagricultural economic output of countries through analyses of year-to-year variation.
    We show that in a business-as-usual climate change scenario, the geographical position of this temperature niche is projected to shift more over the coming 50 y than it has moved since 6000 BP. Populations will not simply track the shifting climate, as adaptation in situ may address some of the challenges, and many other factors affect decisions to migrate.

    Nevertheless, in the absence of migration, one third of the global population is projected to experience a MAT >29 °C currently found in only 0.8% of the Earth’s land surface, mostly concentrated in the Sahara.
    As the potentially most affected regions are among the poorest in the world, where adaptive capacity is low, enhancing human development in those areas should be a priority alongside climate mitigation.

  5. StevoR says

    Apt for World Refugee Day – which is today BTEW? See :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Refugee_Day & https://www.unhcr.org/events/world-refugee-day-2023

    Australia’s treatment of refugees is appalling too. Therere are still some people locked up in off shore prisons on Manus and Nauru for the non-crime of seeking asylum here having posed us no threat and simply fled persecution in the, sadly unrealistic, expectation that we’d be compassionate human beings and give them our fabled Fair Go. (See : https://refugeeaction.org.au/?page_id=4528 )

  6. StevoR says

    @ ^ How did that extra ‘E’ get into BTW i.e. the usual By The Way acronymn? I really don’t know & could’ve sworn it wasn’t there before. Sigh.

  7. says

    It didn’t work out too well the last time those pommy bastards locked people in prison hulks on the thames for stealing a loaf of bread. This time they don’t have a colony on the other end of the earth to transport them to to use as slave labour. Although I believe they are now planning to transport them to 3rd world African states.

  8. wzrd1 says

    Well, in defense of Greece, the Greek authorities were surprised, shocked and dismayed over the sudden, surprise sinking of the vessel after it became mysteriously immobile for 7 hours, then suddenly disappeared by magic. Apparently, it’s unheard of for a vessel to become immobile, then subsequently sink, they instantly disappear like a Star Trek phaser vaporized them pretty much always, like the Titanic did. Or something.

    The UK has a long, proud history of confining people to unfit prison barges, going back even before our Revolutionary War, where few American POW’s survived such hulks. Looks like they’re keeping up their fine tradition, as I can predict how those containers will fare in any significant storm. Expect drowned human filled containers to wash ashore, much to the shock, dismay and surprise of the Crown.
    I do have a question though. If these nations cannot abide by the treaties on refugees and sanctuary requesting displaced persons, how can they be trusted not to abrogate every other treaty that they ratified, to include the NATO mutual defense treaty?

  9. imback says

    Remember that 33 million people were displaced less than a year ago in the massive floods in Pakistan. Our climate future will only get more tenuous.We will soon have to deal with continuously having on the order of a billion refugees worldwide. Walls will do little except to exacerbate tragedies like this. We will have to figure out how to adapt to our old-but-new nomadic paradigm.

  10. wzrd1 says

    @10, never fear, imback. I’m sure they’ll have special camps to concentrate such threats, with really, really big ovens and showers that have no need for water.

    Now, name even one nation on the planet that’s tolerated migrant behavior like nomadic movement, rather than controlling and restricting such movement as much as possible. Feel free to ask Travellers and the Roma. Movement restriction means that the powers that be are in control.

  11. imback says

    @11, wzrd1, Yes the track record of our species is not good in accommodating nomads. As the song goes, we’ve been carefully taught to hate all the people our relatives hate. I’m hoping we can do better.

  12. Luftritter says

    This treatment of migrants is creating great resentment in the Global South and with reason. It has not escaped notice that while Ukrainians refugees got the red carpet, it is now acceptable for Afghans, Pakistanis, Syrians and Africans to drown in the Mediterranean by the tens of thousands. The racist and inhumane immigration policies of the US, Europe and Australia will have consequences. And this isn’t even the only thing recently, the unfair and predatory commercial practices and debt traps and the disgraceful roll out of the COVID vaccines also come to mind. The US and it’s European Allies should not be really surprised if they suddenly get isolated from a really big chunk of the human race or
    if they prefer to ally with Russia and China instead.

  13. StevoR says

    @11. wzrd1 : Do Indigenous Australians, Native Americans, Inuit and some other societies of that variety count here?

    Albeit they had their territories even if they overlapped like the for me local Kaurna and Peramangk Peoples sharing some areas and would try to control what happened on them still I guess? Not “nations”as such but also Jewish, Chinese and Indian diaspora communities spring to mind here too though again whether they count here, dunno.