In the past week I have seen much coverage of interrupted Eurotunnel services as desperate people who only want a decent life again surge towards the trains, coverage of politicians threatening to close borders and many reports of Sunday's European Leaders' Summit on the Western Balkans Refugee Route. The press release for the latter is here and it does not make very jolly reading. The states represented, we learn, will "refrain from taking unilateral decisions whose effects are inevitably borne by others", a reference, presumably, to the practice of closing your border and bussing those refugees who had previously got through along to someone else's. The only solution, we are told, is to "stop the flow" but, apart from sharing information more efficiently, we are not told how the EU proposes to do this.There is no mention of saving human life in the whole release.
Well, Italy [not represented at this summit] does not have the luxury of being able to close its Mediterranean entry points and, although the world has forgotten the Libya-Italy route, thousands of people continue to use it and tragic results continue to ensue: on 19th October Italian naval personnel found seven women and one man dead on an overcrowded migrant dinghy off Libya. The causes of death are thought to have been asphyxia and exhaustion. The other 113 passengers were saved by the naval ship The previous weekend 1,300 people were saved by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard in the Mediterranean.
As I've mentioned before, Italy has a good record in bringing people traffickers to justice but receives little international credit for it, although politicians from other countries huff and puff about stopping this despicable trade. Surely it would make sense for these leaders to cooperate more closely with the front-line nation which is already expert in this area?
According to figures released by the Italian Red Cross today, 130,000 migrants have been helped by their staff and volunteers in Italian ports since January. The Port of Augusta has seen the most arrivals and Sicily, with a total of 85,000 arrivals, is the Italian region which has been the most active in providing a response to the situation [in terms of reception and help].
Fears are now being expressed that migrants will begin using the Albania - Italy route if more European states close their borders. This is not a new route but it has largely fallen into disuse. When will the world understand that people fleeing for their lives will do so in any way they can or - as we have so often seen while "caring" countries stand by - die in the attempt?
The autumn tides of 2015 are expected to bring with them many more refugees, as people rush to try to reach Europe before atrocious weather sets in.