Every day there are stories about the interception of or deaths of migrants to Europe. Whether it be across the Mediterranean or over the Channel or even over the Asian land mass. The stories are so frequent that they have become, for many of us, almost a numbers game. 300 deaths here, 40 deaths there, 200 discovered barely alive in an abandoned crew-less ship and so on and so on.
On BBC Radio Four's From Our Own Correspondent on 14 February, a reporter went out with one of the EU ships tasked with tracking down the Mediterranean migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Listening to the report - her own tale of horrific sea sickness, the interview with an officer who could barely speak of some of the horrors that he had seen whilst doing his job, the description of the estimated numbers who try every day to make the crossing - it struck me that it is very easy to lose sight of the personal calamities which drive each and every one of these desperate people. They are pawns in a numbers game being played by governments and the media but they themselves are making life threatening decisions to migrate rather than to stay in their current situations. We, in our safe lives, agonise over how to travel with a baby on holiday, for example. What if you had paid over your life savings in desperation to escape and then found yourself with a baby in a rusty cargo hold with no water, food or fresh air....
Some would have us believe that all migrants are drawn to Europe by the promises of our benefit system. I am sure that there is a percentage of migrants who are indeed economic migrants, looking to milk the system. But just how desperate must a person be to risk life, limb and often their families' lives and limbs in order to arrive near penniless in a place where they know no-one?
There is also the fact that for many of us Europeans, it is only a matter of a couple of generations or so back on our family trees before we find our own ancestors taking such risks. The Italians and Irish to the USA and the UK, the Indians from Uganda to the UK, the partition of India or the Afro Caribbeans to the UK. Further back, the French Protestants fleeing to England, Jews leaving the Russian pogroms behind. And these are just a few examples.
There are can be very few "Europeans" today who can confidently say "We Know Who We Are" thank you very much.