Tiny Boats in the Mediterranean

In light of the renewed US travel ban, I want to note that on Thursday about 970 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean by the Italian coast guard (with help from a Norwegian vessel). Those 970 people were crammed onto four rubber dinghies and two wooden boats (one larger, one small).

Picture that for a second. Picture how packed those boats have to have been. Picture stepping onto it, maybe with your children, feeling it dip and knowing that if it sunk, which would seem very possible, there would be no floatation devices and nobody who knew to look for you. (I myself feel nervous about open water even if I’m on a large cruise ship outfitted with radio equipment and lifeboats.)

You don’t get on a boat like that to go to a low-employment country which is by no means wealthy, unless you think that boat is less likely to be deadly than the place you came from.

I always hesitate to mention numbers like 15,000 in the first two months of 2017, up 50% from last year, because it’s the kind of thing that makes people who already fear foreigners get even more afraid. They’ll steal from us! No more room!

But if they’re not foreigners – if they’re the kind of people the story of the loaves and the fishes is about – the number that matters more is the people who didn’t arrive. We know for sure that 440 are missing already this year – started the sea journey and didn’t land anywhere. The real number is undoubtedly much higher.

Wonder how the travel ban – which includes primo refugee takeoff point Libya – is going to impact those Mediterranean migration levels.

There’s been some talk lately about Europe needing to step up on its NATO commitments to defense spending. Maybe the US needs to step up on some commitments to consequences-of-war spending.

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