Numerous politicians, from Daniel Cohn-Bendit to Marine Le Pen and including Emmanuel Macron, denounce what they claim is collusion between organisations helping migrants (humanitarian workers) and smugglers (criminals). One group operates in full public view, the other out of sight, but both are said to be working together to help people illegally cross borders.
Humanitarian organisations coming to the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are kindly required either to watch them drown or to hand them over to human traffickers and torturers. We have seen countless political statements, opinion polls and editorials on the need to take a harder line against African migrants and accusing NGOs of being the accomplices of “smugglers”. We have even heard it said that these NGOs are organising the departures of those aspiring to migrate to Europe coincide with the presence of a rescue ship, making relief workers conscious actors in a criminal enterprise.
Humanitarian aid organisations carrying out rescues at sea were made into the accomplices of human traffickers. This accusation is as absurd as it is unacceptable. Not only do rescue operations at sea save people from drowning, but they evacuate people in situations of immediate danger in Libya, MSF recalls.
Abstaining from participation in a meeting taking place this coming Thursday, MSF feels that "government officials have listened politely at best and shown condescension and contempt at worst in response to positions expressed in meetings, op-ed pieces published in the press and questions asked in meetings by NGOs" and do not hide "a policy that is sliding into harsh repression".
How much is known about the daily experiences of humanitarian workers in extreme situations such as major conflict or disaster? In their new book, “Humanitarian Aid, Genocide and Mass Killings: Médecins sans frontières, the Rwandan experience, 1982-97”, Marc Le Pape and Jean-Hervé Bradol set out to answer some of these questions. The book is also informed by Bradol’s experience of working for Médecins Sans Frontières in Rwanda during the genocide.
Former president of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières and current director of studies at the MSF Foundation’s Centre de réflexion sur l’action et les savoirs humanitaires (CRASH), Dr Rony Brauman, explains the difficulties involved in obtaining reliable figures on the human costs of natural disasters.
This op-ed article was published on 27 October 2017 in the French weekly Marianne. He writes it in the backdrop of a controversy around a "Que Sais-Je" book on Rwanda published by the Belgian researcher, Filip Reyntjens and the accusations against him that he rewrites history and seeks to minor the genocide of the Tutsis in 1994.
Marc Le Pape, sociologist and member of MSF-Crash Scientific Committee, is interviewed by Boris Martin, Editor-in-chief of Alternatives Humanitaires, about his and Jean-Hervé Bradol's latest book "Humanitarian aid, genocide and mass killings: MSF, the Rwandan experience (1982-1977)".