On June 20 2003, another tragedy took place in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. A boat packed full of illegal immigrants capsized due to bad weather off the coast of Tunisia. It has been estimated that 250 people from several African countries were on board this boat, another common steamboat that regularly seeks to go to nearby Italy. The journey to try to find a better life ended with the probable drowning of about 200 people. Only 41 survivors were rescued. There were some who by very tedious efforts managed to swim for 5 hours and were able to reach the shore. This plight of these unfortunate illegal immigrants with their boats either sinking, capsizing or getting lost at sea has been going for many years now.
Africa - The land that has been suffering for centuries
The African Continent is the poorest continent in the world with wars, diseases, malnutrition, rampant crime, miserable working conditions and a huge unthinkable lack of education. This is the terrible life that millions of people endure every day. These are the reasons that push thousands of people to leave their countries in search for a better life. Usually they spend every cent they have to get on a boat that they think may lead them to a better life. Countries like Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Somalia and Niger are where most illegal immigrants originate from. Even people from supposedly better-off African countries such as Morocco and Libya try to search for a better life, most of them seeking better working conditions and escaping from persecution.
So the journey into a European country begins, usually with small steamboats in poor condition in which hundreds of people are packed like sardines. Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and even Malta; have had thousands of illegal immigrants landing on their shores. There has been strict naval surveillance in these countries in recent years to keep a watch for the boats carrying illegal immigrants, most of them being caught as soon as they reach the shore. Unfortunately as soon as they are found most of them are in need of immediate medical attention and food. Here in Europe very few of these illegal immigrants are actually given the opportunity to settle down and make their own living. Most of them are sent back to their countries. It always happens that most of them would never mention where they're originally from, in fear that on being sent back they might be killed for escaping. The fact is that if all these immigrants were welcomed there would be a whole fleet of boats ready to come to Europe everyday such is the terrible condition they have to live in. That's the big problem!
Some racist politicians have done their best to keep out illegal immigrants from reaching their countries by demanding an increase in the military boats patrolling the shores. The notorious Italian racist politician Umberto Bossi [of the Northern League] and minister in the government, recently went as far as to state that the Italian Navy should use its firepower to deter the arrival of so-called "sub-humans", i.e. that they should shoot at these desperate people, whose only crime is to be terribly poor.
His exact words were: "I want to hear the roar of the canon. The immigrants must be hunted down, for better or worse ... At the second or third warning - boom! Fire the canons at them! Otherwise this will never stop."
Bossi has also criticized his counterpart Berlusconi for not taking tougher action against illegal immigrants. In an interview with Italian journalists of the newspaper "La Repubblica" he is quoted as saying that Berlusconi is like a racehorse who needs a good crack of the whip.
Bossi conveniently ignores the fact that not so long ago boats full of similarly desperately poor Italian emigrants were sailing across the Atlantic to the United States in search of a "better life", but then he probably considers those as inferior too, as most of them were from the South.
Whatever repressive measures the countries of Europe may take, the numbers of immigrants trying to search for better living conditions will continue to grow so long as the situation in Africa continues to go from bad to worse. We have recently seen the conflicts in Mauritania, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Life has become hell for millions of people all across Africa and these teeming masses desperately want to climb out of the pit they have been thrown into.
Their problems will not go away under capitalism. Only a socialist revolution in the African continent could bring better living and working conditions for the African masses. The capitalists can only think of repressive measures to stop this flood of humanity. But it is precisely the capitalists that have created the poverty that creates this very same flood.
What the African workers and peasants need is a genuine revolutionary leadership armed with a Marxist and Leninist programme capable of leading the African masses to victory. For the workers of these countries would much prefer to put an end to the disaster that capitalism represents for their homelands than to be forced to work in humiliating conditions after risking their lives in crossing the sea in these ramshackle boats. If they were offered this perspective we are sure they would grasp it with both hands.
June 24, 2003.