As some of you will know, I have been writing about the migrant situation in the Mediterranean since 2006 and during all these years, having documented tragedy after tragedy on this blog, I have been asking myself just what it would take for the rest of the world to take notice. Today we have the answer: a sensational incident that feeds current prejudices has prompted Sky to send Enda Brady to Sicily and UK online newspaper editions to report the events further up the page - for a while.
What appears to have happened is this: About 105 migrants, most of whom were from Senegal and the Ivory Coast, were travelling on a boat which left Libya on 14th April. A few miles from the Libyan coast, a fight broke out and some Ghanaian and Nigerian passengers, who were in the minority, were threatened by a group of 15 other migrants. The group of 15, who were Muslim. said they would throw the Christian migrants into the sea and they subsequently threw 12 of the Christians overboard. Others survived only because they formed a human chain, according to eye witnesses. The group of 15 have been arrested by Palermo police and, although the incident occurred in international waters, the Italian authorities have the right to carry out the investigation and to pursue the matter as the perpetrators are now in Italy and because of the gravity of the crime.
Another incident that is being widely reported is the explosion of a domestic gas cylinder in a house in Libya where migrants were being kept prior to making the crossing. Five people, including a baby, died on the spot. Horrifyingly, 18 other migrants who were seriously burned were forced onto a dinghy bound for Italy and one woman died during the crossing. The migrants were rescued by the Italians and brought to Lampedusa, from where those with the most serious burns were transferred to burns units in Catania and Palermo.
In yet another tragedy, a group of migrants rescued and taken to Trapani yesterday said that 41 people had drowned during their crossing. The people trafficker involved has been arrested.
It is now estimated that 10,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean between last Friday and this Tuesday alone. As you will have gathered from the incidents I have mentioned above, the situation is daily becoming more dangerous, not only for the migrants but for all involved in the rescues. Reports today of an Italian fishing boat being seized by Libyan security forces will add to growing unease here.
The world may now be noticing but the world continues to fail Italy, which is largely shouldering the burden alone. Dimitris Avramopoulos, who a few days ago was advocating a coherent and long-term approach, has today warned that the EU does not have a magic wand. No one has, but surely the situation is now so serious that it is a matter for a wider body than the EU. Someone else seems to think so and that person is President Obama, who, in a meeting with Premier Renzi today, has said that the US will work more closely with Italy "to encourage cooperation on threats coming from Libya."