Index > Briefing
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
The Refugee Crisis that is Happening in the Mediterranean and the Rest of the World
Chan Kung

Climate, human population and living space, these are the fundamentals for humans to sufficiently develop and thrive.

Being an intercontinental sea that boasts gentle waves, winding coastlines and many isles, the Mediterranean Sea is a place blessed in abundance of natural harbors, making it a key passageway in the international maritime trade route that links three major continents together. History has it that when the earth turned cold, it drove its inhabitants away from the northern hemisphere and into the south of the equator, right where the Mediterranean Sea is located. Over time, the people who settled down around the Mediterranean Basin turned the place into the cradle of human civilization and flourished in maritime trading, which then gave rise to the civilizations that people have come to know, like Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The Mediterranean coastlines was home to the Phoenicians (now Lebanese), the Cretans, the Greeks and much later, the Portuguese and the Spaniards too, all who were a part of the maritime community. Coincidentally, it was the birthplace of many famed explorers too, such as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, all who hailed from the surrounding area.

Where Europe is concerned, the Mediterranean Sea views it as an extension of itself brought to life by its technological advancement and culture. It is a part of the Mediterranean civilization and will always be considered a "birthchild" or "successor" to its expansion. Historically speaking, civilizations never thrive in the north; it is impossible for humans to survive there given the harsh and brutal climate. That said, the global warming brought about by long years of industrial revolution and technological advancement eventually brought down the temperature in some parts of the land up north that it became a habitable zone for many. Subsequently, people began to move away from the Mediterranean and into the north to settle down, forming the continent we come to know today as Europe.

Additionally, three of the world's largest religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam originated from the Mediterranean too before each respective religion's followers decided to travel beyond their homeland to spread their faith. Clearly, be it on a spiritual level or the real world, the events in the Mediterranean has a profound impact on the world. Every single happening have all had a hand in helping shape the world history.

Between the 16th to the 19th century, the Europeans engaged in slave trading, as the industry was booming and extremely prevalent in the Mediterranean. Back then, missionary ships who roamed the waters of the Mediterranean Sea often became easy targets for the Barbary Corsairs, or the Barbary Pirates, a group of pirates hailing from North Africa. These pirates, known for their act of plundering and pillaging ships for goods, typically stationed their bases closer to the Moroccan coastline and the Barbary Coastlines, which consisted coastlines from the trinity of Tunisia, Algeria and Tripoli. The name "Barbary" derives from the word "Berbers", a term used to describe an ethnic group of people indigenous to North Africa. Initially, these pirates started out in the west of the Mediterranean Sea, over time however, they expanded their activities further down south, to the coastlines of West Africa and South America, eventually expanding their empire to the far north at Iceland. Apart from pirating, they were also infamous for raiding countless European coastal towns and villages. The reason behind the raids was to abduct devout Christians to sell them off to the Ottoman Empire and the Arabs, where slavery was highly in demand, in exchange for a ludicrous amount of gold. In an entry by Italian Renaissance and Pre-Modern Mediterranean history professor Robert Davis, he believed the Barbary Pirates had enslaved a total of 1 to 1.25 million Europeans between the 16th to the 19th century and had only ceased to exist nearing the 19th century, where they were eventually subdued and put of commission when the French colonized the town of Algeria, Algiers, bringing the Europeans the peace they desperately sought for so long.

The Mediterranean weren't merely some pioneer of the world's earliest human civilizations in history. In fact, they continue to play an important role in today's modern society, where like in the past, every single occurrence that takes place in the continent determines the fate of the world.

At present, the Mediterranean is plagued with the issue of massive shortages in its fish stocks. Likewise, many are aware that the world is currently experiencing a refugee crisis, and that the dwindling fish stocks is the root cause of it. The Mediterranean fishing industry was booming during the mid-19th century. Since 1950, the continent had experienced a steady growth in the number of fishes caught with numbers reaching 1.95 million tons of fishes in 1982, and 1.97 million in 1988. In 1991 however, the figure plummeted to 1.28 million ton of fishes, and continued to worsen from thereon. This was largely due to the surge in demand for tunas, which translated to a hike in price. Consequently, this resulted in an increase in the arrival of foreign fishing vessels or ships in the Mediterranean waters and the use fishery technology far more advanced from the Mediterranean locals to capitalize on the hype. Left with no options, many coastal states were forced implement fishing laws that bans the use of drift netting and longline fishing to maintain a fair competition as well as to prevent a complete depletion in the continent's fishing stock. To make matters worse, the issue was further aggravated through the severe environmental pollution happening in the Mediterranean, caused by the erected water dams that obstructs rivers and stream currents flowing into the ocean, which in turn raises the salinity in the Sea of Azov by a thousand-fold. The rise in the sea's salinity, coupled with the presence of a water dam deprived fishes the ability to reproduce and relocate their offspring efficiently, severely affecting the population of fish native to the Mediterranean. In a March 14, 2012 report titled the Elasmobranches of the Mediterranean And Black Sea: Status, Ecology, And Biology Bibliographic Analysis published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the FAO stated that the fishing activities that has occurred in the Mediterranean Seas from 200 years ago up to now has effectively caused the number of sharks in the area to dwindle by 97% and that if the situation were to persist, the sharks will soon be forced on to the brink of extinction.

Today, the fishing community in the Mediterranean is not only faced with the issue of living in a war-torn country, they must also face the possibility of losing their jobs caused by the depletion in the Mediterranean's fishing stock. Seeing that the fishing stock is on a slippery slope to ruins, many Libyans, Moroccans and Tunisians have now turned to smuggling refugees across the European borders to make a living. Some have even resorted to selling their fishing boats off to join the bandwagon of refugees looking to gain a safe passage into Europe. When asked about the current state of fishing stock in the Mediterranean Seas, certain foreign fishing community like the French remarked that the sea is practically dead. According to the French, there are more plastics than fishes to be found in the waters and they can only scavenge for plastics to exchange for some money under the European environmental subsidies.

Put simply, the refugee crisis that is taking place in the Mediterranean is an ecological crisis, one that first affected the Mediterranean, then Europe and now, the States, as evident by the migrant caravan longing to gain access into the country for a better life. The presence of these refugee crisis has sowed quite the aggressive and extreme reaction within politicians worldwide, leading to a tensed confrontation between each party in the political scene, particularly the right-wing parties, otherwise known as the conservatives. The conservatives have now entered into the political arena to protest the act of granting asylum to the refugees, either by proposing to shape the order of the country or to amend the country's law and trade rules or simply just changing the entire country itself.

On a closing note, one cannot stress enough that the events happening in the Mediterranean has a profound effect on the rest of the world, be it past or present. After all, the Mediterranean was the epicenter of human civilization, and that will always be a fact and not just a mere opinion. As it did in the olden day, what happens in the Mediterranean will determine the fate of the world, regardless if it is in the past, at this moment, or in the future.


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