Migrant boat confrontation: we live to sail, they sail to live
January 23, 2020

Migrant boat confrontation: we live to sail, they sail to live

“Panpan, Panpan, Panpan. This is the coastguard with a general safety message. Please look out for a ship with migrants, heading from Africa to The Canary Islands. ETA 16.00h at Arrecife, Lanzarote.”

All day long, this message is being broadcasted on the emergency VHF channel 16. As time passes by, we hear more and more information being shared. The ship is either 400m long, or it has 400 people on board.. that we couldn’t quite understand.

I plot the coordinates on our map and conclude: that’s really close by! We sailed that trip just recently… The coastguard mentioned that this boat comes from Rabat, Morocco, which we’ve left just a few weeks ago… We both are shocked by this realization.

Back in the Channel between The Netherlands and England, we heart a similar message of a migrants ship. The feeling of ‘it’s everywhere’ starts to grow within me.

I find it so bizarre and shocking, it really gets to me. How desperate one must be to put your life in the hands of a smuggler, to have absolutely no idea where you end up or if you even survive. I’ve had some pretty bad seasickness episodes, and I can’t wrap my head around how horrible it would be for those people migrating over sea… most of them probably never went on a boat before. They lack food, water, suitable clothing, medicine, sunblock…

We live to sail, they sail to live…

Whát can we do? Would my help make a difference? I guess if we would actually ran into them, we could only host a few of them on board, and then what? They might be sick, traumatized, hurt… where should we take them? Probably to the nearest coast.

A few weeks ago, I read the book Grand Hotel Europa, by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. The writer compares the refugee crisis to other human crisises that we had. He writes about the cruelty of Europe: letting migrants drown in our own backyard. Offering very little help to the European islands that are the preferred landfall spots. People migrate as long as we walk around on earth. Who are we to determine where one would be allowed to live? Wouldn’t you leave if you had a very shitty life, if you couldn’t provide for your family, if healthcare was extremely poor… And by the way: haven’t we all migrated at least once in our lives when we moved to another house? On a microlevel, we all search for the best possible life and try to create a nice environment for ourselves. On a macrolevel: people have migrated all across the earth ever since humanity was present.

Pfeijffer hares some interesting thoughts that helped me in wrapping my mind around this topic:
– Migrants can actually contribute a lot to ‘dead European cities’, such as Venice. This city, like many others in Europe, has become a museum, fully flooded by tourists. It would bring an economic diversity, and this would replace the touristic monoculture which nobody likes.
Taking this thought one step further, Pfeijffer claims that migrants are the salvation of a Europe that is becoming nothing more than a fancy museum to the entire world. All it has to offer is it’s history. The technological and economical prosperity are found in other parts of the world, Europe’s role is becoming smaller and smaller.
– Interesting paradox: everybody is willing to help someone in need. But all of us get pretty scared when there are thousands of needy persons knocking on our door. We need to keep our eyes open to see migrants as likeminded humans, not as a collective threat.
– There is no such thing as a ‘threat to our culture’, since cultures are made of diversity of people. Cultures are always evolving.
– War is just as threatening as poverty for the wellbeing of people. Why do we only allow and care for war victims?
– Hopefully, we’ve learned by now (with reference to recent wars) that there is no superiority between certain groups of people. If we strive for equality, we should allow people to live where ever they’d like. If the argument of ‘not enough space and/or resources’ is mentioned, we should go back to the fact that Europe needs young and healthy people in order to continue the society due to the lack of children that are born.

I could cite the entire book here, it has so many interesting insights. If the topic interest you, I really recommend reading this book. It’s also beautifully written and has an interesting storyline. It’s not all gloom and doom 😉

So what can we do… I really do not have the answer. I guess starting with awareness is important. Challenge my own thinking. I try to keep my eyes open to this problem in stead of looking the other way… that’s pretty challenging already. Acknoledging that this feeling of fear and being overwhelmed is normal, since the problem feels so big and impossible to tackle. Focussing on the individual stories of people, realizing that we are all equal and trying to make the most of our lives.


Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


  1. Rianne Visscher

    Prachtig geschreven.. !

  2. Anton witte

    Mooie 3 dimensionale kijk op de wereld. Om een verdere nuance aan te brengen EN nog meer begrip te krijgen voor je boodschap Suus, is om het boek te lezen: De meeste mensen Deugen van Ruther Bregman.
    Liefs anton

  3. Wilbert

    Heel tof boek!

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