Barack Obama has called out the current obsession with the doomed Titanic tourist sub at a time when people are turning a blind eye to the deaths of hundreds of migrants when a fishing boat sank off the coast of Greece.
Speaking at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation conference in Athens on Thursday, the former US president pointed out the overwhelming difference in attention the two cases have gotten this week.
“Think about the circumstances which lead desperate people to come here. And we can’t ignore it,” he said.
Follow the latest updates on the missing Titanic submarine here
“You think about what’s happening this week. There is a potential tragedy unfolding with the submarine that is getting, you know, minute-to-minute, coverage, all around the world.
“And you know it’s understandable, because we all want and pray that those folks are rescued,” he said, prior to the announcement that the five submarine passengers were killed.
“But the fact that that’s got so much more attention than 700 people who sank.”
Mr Obama was met with loud applause as he pointed out this disparity.
He added: “That’s an untenable situation.”
The former president later doubled down on his argument in an interview with CNN, pointing out how the “news of the day” shows the “obscene” “levels of inequality” today.
“Right here, just off the coast of Greece, we had 700 people that – 700 migrants who were apparently being smuggled into here – and we’ve made news, but it’s not dominating in the same way,” he said.
“And in some ways, it’s indicative of the degree to which people’s life chances have grown so disparate.”
Last week, a fishing boat packed with about 750 men, women and children capsized off the coast of Messenia, Greece.
Around 300 of those on board came from Pakistan, while others travelled from Syria and Egypt.
Hundreds are believed to have died, marking one of the deadliest tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea and shining a light on Europe’s refugee crisis as thousands desperately seek better lives away from the perils of war and poverty.
Since then, questions have mounted about the efforts to rescue those on board as there appeared to be a delay in response from Greece despite shipping data revealing that the boat was in trouble.
By contrast, the five men on board the OceanGate ExpeditionsTitan vessel chose to pay up to $250,000 per person to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the visit the wreckage of the Titanic in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
OceanGate CEO and founder Stockton Rush, British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood embarked on the doomed venture on Sunday morning.
The Titan vessel lost contact with its mother ship the Polar Prince just one hour and 45 minutes into its journey, sparking a multinational, multi-agency search and rescue operation to find the missing sub and rescue those on board.
On Thursday, hopes vanished as the US Coast Guard confirmed that debris from the Titan had been discovered on the sea floor and that the five men had already died as a result of a “catastrophic implosion”. The Coast Guard has since revealed that the Navy picked up the sound of the implosion not long after the sub lost contact minutes into its journey.
Media coverage and attention from the public has also largely favoured the Titan disaster, with round-the-clock reporting and social media obsession about the case.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies