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Konrad Werner: EU realizes there are refugees

When enough of them die all at once, the EU suddenly realizes that there are these people in the world who are really desperate and poor and need help.

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Photo by _mlx_ (Instagram)

Apparently no European leaders knew until last week what happens all the time on the bit of water between Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa. But then 280-plus deaths happened all in one go, and so the EU decided it’s time to sit down and have an “urgent summit” to start an “emergency task force” that will take “immediate action” to deal with the problem of people dying trying to get to Europe.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was particularly shocked to realize that there are these people called refugees, and began babbling new ideas to deal with this totally new thing that he’d never heard of before. One thing we should do, he said, is improve the satellite surveillance scheme – called Eurosur – to spot boats full of poor people sooner and send out Italian ships to head them off before they get too close to the beach.

Then Friedrich realized that if people are willing to get on a dinghy to cross 100 kilometres of water, they must be poor or something, so he added there should be more “economic talks” with developing countries, which would also help find new business for German companies. That sounds fine, except that 1) some of the countries, like Syria, are currently in the middle of horrific wars, so they might not have time to talk about whether they’d be interested in a Bosch toaster. 2) This talk of financial investment a bit disingenuous when for several years, Germany has been meaning to increase its development aid to the promised 0.7 percent of GDP without ever actually doing it. And then 3) the immigrants are the most desperate people in the world, and their poverty is not going to be improved by holding economic summits with dictatorships that put them in the situation. On the other hand, allowing the ones who are camped out on Oranienplatz to try and get a job in Germany would provide them immediate help. It might cost the social benefit system some cash, but it would also be saner, and not quite as immoral as letting people die.