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Identifying Disparities in the Greek Migrant Boat's Media Representation

Aston Davies

On June 14, a dilapidated boat filled with 750 migrants mostly from Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan, sank off the southwest coast of Greece, where hundreds of passengers are still missing in the Aegean Sea. “I can still hear the voice of a woman calling out for help,” one survivor recalls, as the incident left a profound scar on those who survived and families that lost a relative.

Following this tragic incident, rights groups and activists illustrated the fatal consequences that illegal pushback of migrant boats to other nations carries. If the Greek coast guard had aided the migrants as they should have, many argue, the death toll would be far lower. Subsequently, many individuals point to the Greek authorities as the ones to blame in this incident.

In completely different waters, the world witnessed another maritime tragedy after five passengers boarded the Titan submarine to view the Titanic wreckage 325 nautical miles beneath the surface in the North Atlantic Ocean. In this case, technical malfunctions led to an implosion as the Titan descended into the abyss, eliminating any hope of discovering the passengers alive. While it's impossible to determine which incident deserves more media coverage, when comparing the attention both incidents received, it’s clear that the Titan’s implosion reached a far broader audience, highlighting the "obscene inequality' in the migrant's representation in the news, as former president Barack Obama states. While reports continue to circulate in attempting to understand what happened on board the submarine, they undermine an even greater threat that the Greek migrant boat tragedy embodies and the necessary steps government must take in order to accept refugees.

The method by which countries receive migrants has been debated in ongoing discussions as few are able to arrive at a plan that both sides agree on. When there is a lack of protocols enforced, tragedies like the sinking of the Greek migrant boat are inevitable. This incident was a prime example of our necessity to change. However, as this event was undermined by significantly more frequent coverage of the Titan's implosion, it ultimately coincides with the lost opportunity to address and correct these issues.

Apryl Alexander, a public health professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte who has studied survivors and trauma said that the African migrants who drowned off the southwest coast of Greece didn’t embody the same public interest in comparison with wealthy individuals who paid $250,000 to explore the Titanic wreckage. This reduces not only the Greek authorities' ability to remediate their approach in accepting refugees but also other government officials who bore a profound opportunity to learn from this incident.

As Alexander continues to elaborate on how race and class became a factor in the number of media publications for both incidents, he draws similarities to when crimes committed against white and wealthy victims receive greater attention compared to a minority in poverty. Such dynamics bear damaging consequences as it not only continues to disadvantage minorities but also undermine efforts to promote equality for people of color.

While these comparisons may seem difficult to conclude, society must also recognize the inherent strength of the media and the pressure government officials face when confronted with frequent exposure of a certain flaw. In this scenario, exposing the injustice that all migrant passengers on board the Greek migrant boat faced forces authorities to acknowledge their faults and remediate the issues that led to this outcome.


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