Every day, a relentless stream of migrants and refugees hailing from sub-Saharan Africa embark on a treacherous journey towards Europe. They are packed like sardines into rickety boats that groan under the weight of their human cargo. Curiously, the topic seems to have been swept under the rug, with nary a whisper of acknowledgement or alarm. As fate would have it, the heart-wrenching episode that befell the adventurous tycoons of OceanGate elicited an outpouring of sorrow and lamentation across the world.

By Themba Khumalo

It is curious, is not it? We seem to reserve our most fervent indignation for certain tragedies, while others pass by with little more than a passing thought.

Take, for instance, the countless souls who perish each week in their desperate attempts to cross the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean and Atlantic. These are our fellow citizens of the world, struggling just as we are, yet we do not seem to muster the same level of outrage for their plight as that of the OceanGate adventurous billionaires.

They too seek a better life, one that can provide for their most basic needs of safety and sustenance. And yet, their struggles go largely unnoticed, their deaths unremarked upon. Why is it that we reserve our empathy for some, but not for others? The enigma still eludes my understanding.

The OceanGate incident made headlines across the globe, captivating the attention of countless people who were keenly monitoring this tragic occurrence. The incident was met with a flurry of costly and extensive (unsuccessful) rescue efforts.

The lingering question persists: What could have possibly motivated such a grand and costly endeavour to save a mere five individuals who embarked on a recreational journey of their own accord, while multitudes of migrants are relentlessly succumbing to the perils of destitution, impoverishment, and conflict in their quest for survival?

As the Titan set sail on its ill-fated journey, a select few of its passengers had shelled out a hefty sum of R4 million for the privilege of being on board. Meanwhile, a stark contrast could be seen in the plight of migrants who, with empty pockets and a heart full of hope, were fleeing to Europe in search of employment opportunities.

Amidst the vast and treacherous waters, countless souls are left to perish without aid or hope. One cannot help but wonder, why do nations not unite to extend a helping hand and rescue these desperate souls from their watery graves.

Every year, a steady stream of migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa set out on a treacherous voyage towards Europe, packed tightly into boats that strain under the weight of their human cargo.

As the world’s attention remained fixated on the ill-fated OceanGate submersible, a series of heart-wrenching incidents were unfolding in the shadows. 

As the sun had yet to rise on the morning of June 14, a vessel filled with over 600 migrants seeking refuge from the horrors of war, environmental devastation, destitution, and tyranny met a tragic fate.

The ship, which was en route to Greece, succumbed to the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean Sea, leaving its passengers in perilous circumstances. Regrettably, a multitude of them have perished or vanished without a trace. Among the group, there were around 30 to 100 little ones, their innocent faces peering up at the adults around them.

The tragedy that unfolded in the Greek waters has been marred by accusations of government complicity. It is alleged that the authorities turned a blind eye to the perilous situation, despite keeping a watchful eye on the heavily burdened vessel for a staggering 14 hours. Reports of passengers in dire straits were also said to have been received, yet no rescue operation was organised until it was too late.

On 21 June, once again, in the turbulent waters of the Atlantic, tragedy struck as a dinghy carrying 59 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, capsized near the shores of Spain’s Canary Islands. The unforgiving waters claimed the lives of four women, whose dreams and aspirations were cut short in an instant. Among the victims was a precious baby, whose innocent laughter will never grace the world again.

The vast expanse of the unpredictable ocean can be treacherous for unseaworthy vessels. Beneath the endless expanse of the ocean lies a sinister force, where the waves writhe and writhe with treachery, snatching souls with a merciless grasp.

For years now, the United Nations has been keeping a grim tally of the lives lost to the unforgiving depths of this treacherous migration path. The numbers are staggering, with over 20,000 souls claimed by its merciless grasp since 2014. This stands as a gloomy symbol of life’s transience and the treacherous path that countless souls embark on in pursuit of a brighter future.

These tragic deaths serve as a sombre reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive and kind measures to address the underlying reasons behind migration, while also providing safe alternatives for those looking for safety and a better life.

Efforts should be made to tackle the underlying reasons for migration, enhance rescue operations, dismantle human trafficking networks, and establish lawful pathways for migration. By implementing these actions, the dangers faced by individuals undertaking these perilous journeys can be minimised.

In the grand scheme of things, every life is precious and holds immense value. However, there are times when nations are called upon to exhibit great bravery and make tough decisions. From a logical perspective, rescuing a large group of people from drowning takes precedence over locating a small group of five people in the vast expanse of the sea. The statistics speak for themselves.

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