“Warships won’t stop the flood of refugees in the Mediterranean”

Jaakko Jaskari / Finnish Red Cross
Eduardo Vencesla / Finnish Red Cross

European governments are wrong if they think they can cut off the flood of refugees crossing the Mediterranean by sending fleets to destroy the vessels of human smugglers, said the Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Kenyan doctor Abbas Gullet.

Dr. Abbas Gullet visited Finland in the weekend as a guest of the Finnish Red Cross, and he was one of the main speakers at the World Village Festival. The atmosphere among the Taiga stage audience intensified as it became clear that he had entered the stage with clear messages. Gullet was interviewed by reporter Arto Nyberg.

“The true victims of the planned European military operation are, instead of the smugglers, the thousands of migrants trying to get on your continent,” Gullet said.

According to him, the discussion in Europe is out of perspective. In 2014, approximately 130,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean, while Kenya, for example, hosted approximately a million migrants coming from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“In the case of refugees and migration, the countries neighbouring the origin of the human masses carry the greatest burden, and these neighbouring countries themselves, for example in Central Africa, are some of the poorest countries in the world.”

At the end of 2013, there were over 51 million refugees as defined by the UN refugee agency UNHCR. That is the greatest number of refugees in the world after the Second World War. The number is still increasing.

Most of the refugees are internal refugees within a country. Out of all the refugees in the world, 86 per cent live in the developing countries.

“From an African perspective, it’s frankly surprising to see what kind of effect these approximately tens of thousands of migrants have on Europe.

In my opinion, sending warships is not an acceptable reaction at any level. Perhaps the saddest part is that thousands of migrants had to drown to even get the situation into the politicians´ to-do list,” Abbas Gullet said.

Development funds for disaster resistance

According to the OECD, the total official development aid of the world was 120 billion euros in 2014. According to Swiss Re, a large Swiss insurance company, the average cost of global disaster damages is approximately 170 billion euros a year.

According to the UN, one euro invested in disaster resistance and preparedness yields sevenfold savings when compared to a location where preparedness is neglected.

During the first decade of the 2000s, 40 countries received 90 per cent of humanitarian aid and also one third of the development aid funds in the world. Only one per cent of the development aid was used to improve disaster resistance.

The situation is not only unsustainable in the long term but also defies all logic. According to calculations, Nepal alone lost approximately half of its annual national income due to the cost of the damages caused by the recent earthquakes. The systematic long-term investment in improving earthquake resistance would have paid for itself multiple times in this case, as well.

“In future, a significant proportion of the development aid funding should be directed at initiatives and programmes strengthening disaster resistance. This concerns the countries both giving and receiving development aid – particularly the receiving countries constantly threatened by disasters,” Abbas Gullet emphasised.