By Melanie Wolff
The tragic shipwreck in which 800 migrants lost their lives in April 2015 and referred to by the UN as ‘the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean ever recorded’ is just one of the many incidents wherein immigrants crossing into the EU are losing their lives. This human tragedy calls for an immediate action by the states involved that are responsible in doing what is possible to ensure human life is not lost.
Malta was proud to host the European-Africa summit between the 12th and 13th November 2015 wherein leaders of the most concerned countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants met in Valletta to find solution to the problems.
Disappointing was the fact that the debate focused more on repatriations and securing borders rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. Immigration is a multi-faceted topic and there are different reasons why an individual or a family migrates and take the perilous journey by sea to reach Europe. There are those who flee persecution and those who are forced to leave due to armed conflicts. These are subject to being awarded some form of humanitarian protection such as refugee status. Others however leave their poor communities behind simple because they wish to enjoy a better lifestyle in a new country.
Searching for better standards of living is part of human nature as everyone wants to earn more for the work they do, hence people tend to migrate to countries who can offer a better standard of living than their own countries. Conditions of employment and wage earned is part and parcel of the standard of living in a given area and the African continent, like Latin America and South Asia, is known for jobs with unfair low wages, inhumane working conditions, long working hours, suppression of trade unions, unsafe working environment and limited opportunity to develop potential.
It is always primarily desirable that people are not pushed to migrate in order to have access to an adequate standard of living. Consequently addressing the problem of disparities between the North and the South is crucial if country leaders really want an end to this human tragedy. One way that addresses the disparities is to increase community based Fair Trade projects and other forms of ethical trading that aim to provide decent employment and working conditions to producers will reduce the need for one to travel to search for a better lifestyle in a foreign country.
Fair Trade alone will not solve the problems of developing countries that are plagued by a myriad of problems such as corrupt politician, armed conflicts, unfair trade rules and simply lack the required infra-structure. If however business operating in the global south adopt a policy on Fair Trade and such policy is a genuine one, the gap between the rich and the north will be significantly reduced.