This news about the down-sizing of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean is the latest edition of the long running series "When Politics Trumps Humanity".
The news in brief is this: the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean is being cut by two thirds. For the last year, the Italian Navy has been running an operation called Mare Nostrum, which was started in reaction to hundreds of people drowning off Lampedusa. Mare Nostrum was always going to be a short-term fix, and was never going to be adequate. 3,000 people are reckoned to have drowned trying to cross the Med over the last year with it in place.
Now the EU has proposed a long-term operation called 'Triton', which is roughly a third of the size of Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum will continue for a time, but the Italian government is going to cut it fairly soon.
Triton has one helicopter, six ships and two planes. For the entire fucking Mediterranean. This rank inadequacy is entirely on purpose.
Policy makers have decreed that a search and rescue operation is a feature attracting migrants to attempt the crossing. Never mind that they were doing it before Mare Nostrum. Never mind that so many still die making this journey. Never mind that they are people fleeing war-torn countries that are war-torn largely because of European interventions, past and present. The purported logic is literally: "Not saving people's lives will save people's lives."
There is a long tradition among mariners that those in the water should be saved from drowning, whomever they are. Enemy sailors shipwrecked by your torpedoes? Pick 'em up and take 'em to port. People trying to sail the Med in a rusted tin can that disintegrates beneath them? Save them, the fools. Drowning is a lonely, terrifying way to die; no mariner would ever be knowingly left by another.
Admiral Foffi, in charge of Mare Nostrum, is obviously appalled by the shrinking of his resources and is clear that cutting the search and rescue operation will mean more lives lost at sea. Many, many more lives. He is also adamant that it will not discourage people from trying to make the journey.
But they're immigrants, you see: asylum seekers. Those faces slipping beneath the waves are the bogey men of European politics. Do you think our UKIP representatives in the EU parliament would vote for a new initiative to save these people?
Honestly, why would they? They were voted in by the people of this country to shrink the EU budget until they could drown it in the bath. What better representation of this philosophy than allowing thousands upon thousands of desperate people to drown?
UKIP are not alone: the EU parliament has more than its fair share of isolationist bigots. They are, somewhat ironically, a unified block within the parliament (though that unification has recently, rather unsurprisingly, collapsed).
Immigration has been used across Europe as a right-wing bludgeon of fear, hate and ignorance. It is the cover-all, cure-all, international political panacea to every question of budget or policy; it is the rallying cry for the ignorant aggrieved, the working miserable, the hopeless, the joyless; the people who are angry that the sun rose and are furious it had the temerity to set.
You know: Morons.
But: morons who tend to vote. Thus the main parties, like our own Conservatives and Labour, are the dogs being wagged by the tail of UKIP and it's message of banal evil. They are competing to see who can accrue the most morons by election day; not competing, dear reader, for YOUR vote.
If you ever struggle to put your finger on exactly what it is that troubles you about their message and their manner, know this: The direct result of UKIP's tactics, rhetoric and success will be the deaths of thousands of poor, desperate, disenfranchised, hounded men, women and children on the open sea. They will die alone, cold, unable to cry out, being tossed around in the waves, possibly for hours without hope of rescue. They will die because their country has been torn to shreds by decisions made in Westminster, Washington, Berlin and Paris; decisions that never took them into account. They will die trying to bring the receipt for those decisions back across the sea, not even for it to be paid for, but to pay for it themselves. They will die finally because Brussels refuses to rescue them; because Nigel Farage refuses to rescue them; because morons have been told and do believe that rescuing them is a waste of their money and that they are not people; they are immigrants.
UPDATE: Britain has withdrawn funding for rescue ops in the Med: "Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing," read more: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/27/uk-mediterranean-migrant-rescue-plan