More than 300 slavery and migration scholars condemn the use of military force against migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
More than 300 migration experts and academics have come out against the European Union's plan of military intervention against the surge of smuggling boats across the Mediterranean sea heading to Europe.
The academics’ strong condemnation of the plan comes after the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi compared the current migrant crisis to the 18th and 19th century slave trade. He wrote in a recent article for the New York Times that “human traffickers are the slave traders of the 21st century, and they should be brought to justice.”
Writing for the Open Democracy website, the 300 academics argued that attempts to justify military intervention by comparisons with 18th century suppression of the slave trade were “entirely self-serving” and based on “a dangerous perversion of history”.
The article stated, “As scholarship on the history of slavery makes painfully clear, what is happening in the Mediterranean today does not even remotely resemble the transatlantic slave trade. Enslaved Africans did not want to move. They were held in dungeons before being shackled and loaded onto ships. They had to be prevented from choosing suicide over forcible transportation. That transportation led to a single and utterly appalling outcome—slavery.”
On Monday, EU ministers held talks in Brussels on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea and approved a plan to back a proposal for a new naval force to intercept people smugglers before their boats reach Europe.
Reports last week suggested that the EU parliament was drafting a United Nations resolution that would authorize the deployment of troops to the coasts of Libya in order to “seize” and “destroy” the smuggling boats.
The 300 critics join others who came out against the EU plan and argue that such strategy would not bring an end to the huge wave of migrants fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.
Both governments in Libya have expressed their opposition to the plan as they said that any troops deployment to Libya's waters or shores would be a violation of the country's sovereignty.
The heated debate over the solution to the migrant crisis comes after one of the most devastating migrant boats incidents took place last month in the Mediterranean, when a vessel carrying at least 750 migrants capsized. Only 28 people survived the incident.
“There is no moral basis for measures that lead to the death of peaceable women, men and children, including victims of torture, and those fleeing persecution and war,” the statement by the migrant experts added. “We call for the resettlement of many more refugees within Europe and the dismantling of the barriers to movement that have been put in the way of all but the most wealthy.”