Every time I write a post like this, I hope it will not be necessary again but I know there will be another - and another...
Most of you will know from the news where you are that there has been another large-scale migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean, as these days such events are being more widely reported, though as I write, Sky News UK has it in third place in its running order.
There is probably little that I can add to the news that you are seeing or reading but I will tell you what I know, with the caveat that this is an ongoing situation: Late this morning, the Italian Coast Guard in Catania received a satellite call for help for a migrant boat in trouble some 15 miles north of the Libyan coast. They were told that around 600 people were on board but there may have been up to 700. The Coast Guard immediately directed their own vessels and several other ships to the area, including the Médecins Sans Frontières ship Dignity One and the Irish naval vessel The Niamh.
The MSF ship and The Niamh were first on the scene and the Irish ship launched two lifeboats to rescue the migrants. What seems to have happened - and this has happened with tragic consequences before - is that all those migrants who could ran to one side of their boat upon seeing the rescuers approach and this caused the boat to overturn. There was no hope for the poor souls who were crammed into the hold and these may have numbered 100 - 150. A coordinator on board the MSF ship said he witnessed a horrific sight, with migrants clinging to life jackets and pieces of debris in a desperate effort to save themselves as others drowned before his eyes. There was nothing anyone could do. La Repubblica points out that, on all rescue missions, the first message sent to the migrants in need of help tells them to remain seated and to move as little as possible. But how can we, seated in our comfortable homes, imagine what we would do after such an ordeal and in a state of fear, possible dehydration and exhaustion?
The Italian media are reporting that 400 migrants have been saved and 25 bodies have been recovered so far but many more migrants are probably dead. The survivors and the bodies are tonight being brought to Palermo. The ongoing search operation is still being treated as a rescue mission.
This week we learned that over 2,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2015. Tonight that figure is even higher.
"Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate. Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity.The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner; more than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion."