Nations must work together to catch people smugglers and also spread the thing that desperate refugees fleeing murderous tyrants seek – peaceful, liberal democracy.
It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like for the 39 human beings trapped in the back of a refrigerated truck, as each one died while huddled together in temperatures that may have been as low as minus 25 Celsius.
The crime of people smuggling has become one of the most lucrative in the world, alongside drug trafficking, gun-running and the like. All these activities display a hideous disregard for human life in the pursuit of wealth, but it seems particularly extreme among the organised gangs who prey on the desperation of refugees fleeing war and migrants hoping for a better life. They can pay as much as £10,000 for a place on a smuggler’s lorry, so each one carries a fortune in human cargo, dead or alive.
Amid the ongoing Mediterranean refugee crisis, the World Health Organisation has warned that fake lifejackets sold to the passengers of dangerously overcrowded boats – sometimes 30 people are crammed into boats made for six – are playing a part in drowning deaths. In tests, instead of floating, the supposed ‘lifejackets’ sank.
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So when Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, speaking after the deaths of 39 people in the back of a lorry found on an Essex industrial estate, said the people smugglers responsible had shown “a contempt for human life that is evil”, she was essentially describing the ‘business model’ of this particularly ruthless type of criminal. Pure evil.
This is a globalised crime in a world that is, like or not, an increasingly globalised place. And, as such, it demands a global response. No single country, acting on its own, is likely to be able to put a stop to people smuggling.
Rigorously searching every single vehicle at the border is simply not practical, given the extent of traffic and trade. Instead, an intelligence-led approach in which law enforcement agencies work together to catch those responsible is vital.
This, once again, emphasises the importance of international co-operation and friendly relations between countries in contrast to the hate-filled rhetoric of right-wing populists about ‘patriotism’ and building walls, physical or mental, against outsiders.
And it also underlines the importance of liberal democracy because, for the most part, the refugees are fleeing evil tyrants like Syria’s Bashar Assad because they want to live in a country like the UK. If Syria was a peaceful democracy, they would not need to.