Will there ever again, I wonder, be a good time to be a migrant? Once we [for I regard myself as one, albeit from choice] were needed, wanted and even welcomed, but no more. These lines come to mind:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,"
How different from today's world, with police on the Greek - Macedonian border, clearances at Calais and Idomeni and now 80 Austrian police on the Brenner Pass, much to the understandable concern of Italy, which relies on the Brenner to keep its trade moving. Migrants are unlikely to receive any help from the referendum-obsessed UK in the near future, either. Perhaps the only ray of hope comes from Mrs Merkel, who at least seems to be trying to create a positive environment .
Although a tragedy in the Mediterranean has featured in international headlines today [Wednesday] - Sky News UK are covering the story as I write - I have a feeling that it will soon disappear and few people outside Italy will realise that the Italian Navy and Coast Guard also saved 3,000 people from 23 boats in the Mediterranean yesterday and that this is by no means an unusual occurence.
The pictures of today's migrant tragedy have now gone around the world and we should all bear in mind that it could have been much worse had it not been for the swift action of the Italian Navy: Two of its ships hurried to the scene 18 miles off the Libyan coast after a satellite SOS had been received and the boat, carrying an estimated 600 migrants, capsized as they approached. This was because of the sheer number of people on board and its resultant instability. Naval operatives managed to save not only people from the sea and the deck, but migrants who had been trapped below deck too. It is estimated that 550 people were rescued and five deaths have been confirmed. The number of fatalities should, however, be treated with caution, as it is impossible to know exactly how many people were on board and the figure may rise.
In another development yesterday a 17-year-old Moroccan who was "captaining" the boat on which 52 people died of asphyxiation on 26th August last year was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment by an Italian court. He was found guilty of aiding illegal immigration and will be tried separately for homicide, as will nine other alleged people traffickers involved in the tragedy. Italy has a good record of bringing people traffickers to justice, though this is seldom mentioned by the international media.
Headlines, politics, a UK referendum whose result could depend on migrant scare stories, the Italians continuing to save lives and deal with the situation as best they can whilst their European "partners" largely ignore their plight - it is easy to forget the individual, human aspect of what is happening. My thoughts tonight are with all migrants but particularly with a baby girl aged nine months, now being cared for on Lampedusa, who lost her mother on a migrant boat yesterday.
Finally, it is good to know that one politician has not forgotten: President Mattarella will visit Lampedusa on June 3rd for the opening of the Museo di Fiducia e Dialogo which is to be dedicated to migrating peoples. A Caravaggio, on loan from the Uffizi, will be among the exhibits and this is in memory of Aylan.
May those of us who sleep in our own beds give thanks this night, whilst 28 nations, whose history should cause them to know better and whose collective indifference could have unimaginable consequences, fail to cry,
"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,"