Jean-Jacques Cornish

Covid lockdown hasn’t stopped the desperate bid to find a better, safer life in Europe

COVID 19 provokes the introduction: “Had it not been for the pandemic, this would be the time for ……”

That encompasses both good and bad.

So while many rue the loss of a holiday lazing on a Mediterranean beach, others regret not being able to take their lives in their hands crossing that sea to find a better, safer life in Europe.

Coronavirus has reduced but not stopped the flow of migrants which normally peaks during the northern summer months.

Indeed, it has made the crossing even more dangerous.

Coinciding with Thursday’s international day against people trafficking, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Denmark’s Mixed Migration Centre have released a report confirming that reaching the  Mediterranean from Africa and traversing it to Europe remains the most dangerous migration route on the planet.

The latest available figures show that 72 people a month died trying to make the trip.

More than a quarter of those perished trying to cross the Sahara desert before even making the Mediterranean shore.

Thousands suffered rape, torture and other abuse at the hands people traffickers and lamentably the police.

Thousands have been detained under appalling conditions mainly in Libya where no fewer than 43 000 refugees are held.

Thousands are missing and unaccounted for under the waves.

To illustrate the hazards currently experienced, the International Organisation for Migration reports that

three Syrian refugees were shot dead by Libyan officials last Monday when they tried to escape from Al Khums after being dropped there by the Libyan coastguard.

At least 65 refugees from Eritrea, Morocco and Sudan have tested positive for COVID 19 in Malta where they were taken by sailors who plucked them from a 30-hour maritime nightmare. 

Those now in quarantine represent two thirds of the people rescued.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fillipo Grandi says the situation calls for concerted action by the states in the region with the support of the international community.

That might provide a band aid for the visible wounds.

The real solution lies in making life more tolerable in the home countries of the migrants, so that they don’t feel it is worth risking death to escape.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.