No-one cares about poor Black and Brown refugees dying in the ocean, so why should we care about billionaires?

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Throughout the week, the mainstream media have obsessively been giving us live updates about billionaires missing inside a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. The Titan submersible has five people on board, including three UK citizens. It was on a scheduled dive to explore the wreckage of the Titanic. The chief executive of OceanGate, the firm which runs the voyages, was also inside the vessel.

The people onboard have been described by the media using colonial terms, such as explorers and adventurers. In reality, it was their money that allowed them to embark on such a mission. Each of the passengers paid $250,000 (£195,600) for the opportunity to get close to the Titanic. The minute-by-minute updates about their whereabouts are perhaps unsurprising, given that we live in a society obsessed with the antics of the rich.

Billionaires need saving, refugees are left to drown

The lives of these billionaires are deemed so important that there is a massive rescue operation. The US coastguard has teamed up with the US Navy, as well as the Canadian coastguard, to find the Titan. Meanwhile, the French government vowed to send a ship, along with a deep-diving vessel. The odds of saving the people onboard are said to be around 1%, but that doesn’t stop the efforts.

Now let’s compare that to the lack of action from governments after up to 600 refugees drowned off the coast of Greece on Wednesday 14 June. Think about that figure for a second. 600 people are all thought to have been killed, many trapped in a trawler’s hold. Where was the live tracker on the BBC website? Why wasn’t the Guardian‘s ‘most viewed’ section filled with pieces about this tragedy? How was it allowed to even happen?

750 people were on board the trawler that sank. Greek authorities evaded any responsibility, despite their patrol boats shadowing the trawler for many hours. Indeed, AlarmPhone – a hotline for refugees in distress in the Mediterranean – alerted authorities that the boat was in distress. The Hellenic Coast Guard insisted:

From (1230 GMT to 1800 GMT) the merchant marine operations room was in repeated contact with the fishing boat. They steadily repeated that they wished to sail to Italy and did not want any contribution from Greece.

Yet survivors from the ship have stated that Greece’s Hellenic Coast Guard towed the boat, causing it to capsize.

Read on...

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27,047 dead: it’s far past time we cared

This latest tragedy marks ten years since around 600 people died in two shipwrecks off the island of Lampedusa, Italy. A decade later, nothing has changed. Since Lampedusa, at least 27,047 people have drowned in the Mediterranean. Only one of these people sparked headline news: two-year-old Alan Kurdi. His aunt, Tima Kurdi, spoke out about the 14 June drowning, and pleaded with people to actually take notice:

This shipwreck brings back my pain, our pain. I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken for all the innocent souls lost that are not just numbers in this world. “Never again” we heard in 2015, I heard it countless times. And what changed? How many innocent souls have been lost at sea since then? I want to take you back to September 2, 2015, when all of you saw the image of my nephew, the 2-year-old baby lying on the Turkish beach. What did you feel when you saw his image? What did you say, what did you do? Me, when I heard about my nephew drowning, I fell to the floor crying and screaming as loud as I could because I wanted the world to hear me! Why them? Why now? And who’s next?

She continued:

Since then, I decided to raise my voice and speak up for everyone who is not heard. And most importantly for my nephew, the boy on the beach, Alan Kurdi, whose voice will never be heard again. Please do not be silent and add your voice to mine. We cannot close our eyes and turn our backs to people seeking protection. Open your heart and welcome people fleeing to your doorstep.

Why worship capitalists?

These two incidents, of refugees dying and billionaires trapped in a submersible, should make us reflect on the state of the world we live in. Those on the Titan had signed disclaimers agreeing that they were risking death, and knew the risks. Nevertheless, five international vessels are currently at the site of the Titanic wreckage, with more set to arrive. Meanwhile, US and Canadian aircraft plough the skies in the desperate search.

At the same time, off the coast of Greece hundreds of people are still missing in one of the deepest spots of the Mediterranean; their bodies not yet recovered. Their lives are seen as expendable: only worth a few news headlines, if that. Where are the submarines searching for them? And where is the French deep diving vessel? It is being sent to rescue the billionaires.

Europe is to blame

To be clear, Greek authorities and Frontex (the European Union’s border police force) allowed these people to drown. Determined to wash its hands of any responsibility, Greece has arrested and held nine Egyptian men in detention, accusing them of people smuggling.

Since the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, capitalist and power-hungry policies around the world have caused millions of people to have to flee their homes. Despite what comfortable white people in Europe might think, very few people actively want to leave their roots, say goodbye to their homes, and risk their children’s lives – heading across continents and into the unknown. They are forced to do so by countries like the UK, which historically and currently have participated in destabilising whole regions.

Yet in the global north, we continue to be enthralled by the lives of capitalists and billionaires, completely disconnected from the fact that it is power and greed that is causing the forced displacement of 108.4 million people worldwide.

In time, I’m sure a movie will be made about the rescue effort to save the Titan, just as there was about the very ship the billionaires were so desperate to catch a glimpse of. There will be no film about the 600 who have died off the coast of Greece.


As the mainstream media obsesses about how much oxygen the billionaires have left, readers of the Guardian, the BBC, and others will no doubt be wondering about how the men are coping in such a small space, what they’re going through, and whether they will actually be saved. But for the most part, white people in Europe or the US don’t give a second thought about what it must be like to drown on a cramped ship in the Mediterranean.

Black and Brown people trying to make safer lives for themselves are seen as a scourge on our society. Governments relentlessly make racist laws, militarise borders, and imprison those who have the audacity to come to Europe for safety. White people, meanwhile, moan that “illegal” refugees steal our precious resources (which have been built from pillaging other countries, anyway).

We need to reflect on why we worship celebrity and power, and why five rich people’s lives are deemed more significant than 600 poor Black and Brown people’s. It is time that as white people, we take a long, hard look at ourselves.

Featured image via OceanGate / screenshot

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  • Show Comments
      1. Who are you counting as your fellow men? The five ultra-rich people who chose to take a risk solely for their own entertainment, or the 600 ordinary poor people who drowned risking their lives to escape goodness knows what horrors capitalism inflicted on their home countries?

      2. Simplistic to say the least. Fyo I don’t necessarily agree with the article but you’re doing the opposite view no favours. Use your real name to show the courage of your convictions. I too have read Saki. Bud.

    1. I do wish some people would actualy read these articles. They then might see that it is about ‘comparisions’, The worth of some peoples lives over others, and the fact that some people can know the’ price of everything, and the value of nothing’.( Oscar Wilde). If we really cared about ‘freedom & democarcy’, which is the narrative being sold on so many healdines, then we would maybe have it.
      But it is of course not the goal of ‘those in power’. although they sell the illusion. Sadly ‘ many people still ‘buy’ that illusion ‘ narrative’. and do not question it. Those that do are subjected to hate campaigns in the press an other media, all who ‘buy into’ the narrative’. So the odd troll that comes on here thinking they know who the left are is wide of the mark.

    2. Eliza Egret writes that according to her “No one cares about poor Black and Brown refugees dying in the ocean,” Either she is ignorant of the true facts or, maybe the truth does her article no favours. I care about all those, regardless of the colour of their skin who die in their attempt to reach a land they believe will give them a far better life than the one they attempt to escape from. I instinctively know I am not the only one who feels this way. As far as the Billionaires are concerned, are they not human beings too?

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