The numbers of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean grow exponentially, and the onset of winter does not seem to be deterring them. Not only are the EU nations powerless to stop them, they are also unwilling to commit the resources needed to police the waters and rescue the migrants who find themselves in trouble, which is most of them.
Instead they rely on merchant shipping to do their job. Around seventy per cent of the migrants rescued at sea this year have been picked up by merchant vessels. That’s 104 merchant ships to date which have responded to calls from shore authorities to divert their course and rescue migrants from a sinking craft.
To the politicians in Brussels this seems such a good ploy that they want to get even more merchant ships involved, offer the shipowners financial compensation and even training and equipment to help them perform these rescues.
Which shows how little they understand of merchant ships and the risks these rescues pose. It is only a matter of time before the small, unarmed crew of a typical freighter, maybe twelve to twenty seamen, are overwhelmed by five hundred aggressive and frightened migrants. It’s only a matter of time before a merchant ship is sunk, exploded or burnt or hijacked. Not to even think about the trauma such repeated rescues place on the crews of ships.
When other seafarers are in trouble every ship willingly goes to the rescue. But when it is the borders of nation states that are in trouble it should be the governments who provide the means to protect them and in this case, rescue would-be migrants. EU governments must stop passing the migrant rescue problem onto passing merchant ships.