China-made dinghies not to blame for refugee problem

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/14 23:38:39

Recently, online news portal Middle East Eye criticized Chinese manufacturers for selling "high-quality refugee boats" to people-smugglers in the Mediterranean Sea. It quoted an aid group as saying the sales were "highly irresponsible" and putting the lives of people crossing the Mediterranean at risk.

While Chinese products are often used as a synonym for poor quality in the West, they now have to take the blame for being of such high-quality that they facilitate people smuggling.

"So they should buy low-quality boats that sink and die instead? I think guests on Titanic would like these instead," a reader commented below the article, rightly to the point.

The accusation is nothing new. In May, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, asked China to help prevent migrants using Chinese-made inflatable boats to get into the refugee-crammed bloc by clamping down on sales, saying that the rubber boats are "a very dangerous tool in the hands of ruthless smugglers."

More than 1 million refugees and migrants reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy, in 2015, according to figures by the UN Refugee Agency. And in 2016, about 90 percent of the refugees via the Mediterranean came through Libya. Yet exhausted in grappling with refugee flows, by blaming China the EU has missed the point.

With or without Made-in-China inflatable boats, the number of refugees who want to escape their war-stricken countries will be the same. Refugees who can't survive in their war-stricken and turbulent countries will try everything to find survival somewhere else. They would surely find alternatives for Chinese rubber boats by using boats made of other materials to cross the Mediterranean, which involves more risk. More than 1,000 refugees had drowned in the Mediterranean in 2017 by the end of April. While the flood of refugees can hardly be averted, providing them with high-quality boats can at least reduce the chance of capsizing and the death toll.

If the West hadn't interfered in the internal affairs of countries like Libya and destabilized them, their people wouldn't need to risk their lives by trying to smuggle themselves into the EU. To find a solution the West can offer safer routes for these refugees and more importantly, help maintain the stability of refugees' countries. Poverty and turbulence are the root causes of the refugee problem. To address it fundamentally, it needs development at local level so that refugees can be lifted out of poverty and properly settled down. Blaming China-made dinghies is off the point.

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