This week, some 50 migrants were killed and at least 130 injured in an aerial attack at a detention centre outside the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Days later, tens of others drowned off the Tunisian coast. All these were on the openly perilous journey to Europe and, perhaps, the Middle East to seek opportunities. Two years ago, the plight of migrants in Libya dominated global news headlines after CNN reported about their sale into slavery.
The UN and the African Union strongly condemned the Tripoli attack, even as the internationally recognised Libyan government and the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar blamed each other for it. The UN said it could constitute a war crime, and we hope that, in the fullness of time, the culprits will be held to account.
Nevertheless, condemnation, or even prosecution, of those committing the heinous crimes against the migrants should never be the end of the story. The plight of these miserable souls should be a wake-up call and prick the conscience of those responsible for the circumstances that force the migrants to flee from their home countries. Most of them are victims of poor governance that has birthed hopelessness among the masses, who then target Europe and the Middle East for resettlement.
Tragically, thousands of migrants never make it to the intended destinations; instead, they either die or end up in detention in the horrid centres, especially in Libya. The latest mass deaths of migrants must cajole the leadership of the AU member states into a deep introspection on why their nationals would take such risks.
Nothing short of confronting the causes of forced immigration — among them runaway corruption, ethnic disharmony and civil strife — will stop people from risking everything to reach the place where they hope to find a better life than in their country.