With borders closing, an EU deal on migrants which means that, from Sunday, anyone arriving in Greece from Turkey illegally will be sent back - much to the concern of refugee aid agencies and UNHCR - attitudes everywhere are hardening. Conditions for migrants in Idomeni have been described by the Greek Interior Minister today as "being like a Nazi concentration camp" and the news reports I have been watching tonight indicate that migrants on the Greek-Macedonian border just do not believe that they will not be allowed to go further north within the EU. Amid all this comes a gesture of solidarity from Italy:
On Wednesday the Italian Senate approved a measure, already passed by the Camera dei Deputati in 2015, to make 3rd October each year a National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Immigration. The date is the anniversary of the migrant tragedy in Sicilian waters of 3rd October 2013, in which 366 people lost their lives. The President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, posted the following to facebook on Wednesday [my translation]:
"The Republic recognises 3rd October as a National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Immigration. It is designated a 'National Day' with the aim of preserving and reaffirming our remembrance of all who have lost their lives trying to reach our country whilst fleeing war, persecution and poverty. This is now law.
It was on 3rd October 2013 that a boat sank near Lampedusa; on that day alone 366 people died. Since the beginning of 2015 there have been 4,200 victims in the Mediterranean. Let us stop for a second and try to think of this enormous number as individuals and attribute to each of them a name, a face, wishes, dreams, fears and weaknesses: in this way we can understand the scale of the tragedy which is happening day after day off our coasts. The boats also sink under the burden of the stories of people escaping terrible tragedies, war and abject poverty. They are men and women like us, but now they have nothing and desperately seek a future. Europe must put away selfishness and divisions; we must do our part, remember the victims and above all, act to prevent thousands more people dying in our seas."
During this week the Italian Coast Guard and Navy saved 2,500 people in the Mediterranean over two days. On Wedsnesday, with the help of a Norwegian ship, they rescued 1,467 people trying to cross the Sicilian Channel in 12 rubber dinghies. Three bodies were also found.
Because of the situation in Greece and Turkey, it is thought that migrants will try to reach Italy by crossing the Strait of Otranto from Albania and the region of Puglia is making preparations to deal with the situation, should it happen, by providing the checks and aid required and with humanity.