On the third anniversary of this tragedy in the Mediterranean, at least 6,000 migrants have been saved by the Italian Coast Guard, Navy and ships belonging to international non-governmental organisations. The Coast Guard reports that there were 18 rescue operations involving 39 migrant boats. Sadly, nine bodies have also been recovered in the Sicilian Channel. On one dinghy a man was found dead and several migrants had burns and other wounds caused by leaking fuel. Two children and a woman with serious burns were rushed to hospital.
The surge of boats again heading for Italy from Libya is due to calmer weather conditions after a week or so of rough seas and no one expects them to stop coming. Laura Boldrini, the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, again asked the rest of the EU to take their share of responsibility for migrants, reminding these countries that they do not hesitate to take their share of incoming EU resources. It is with little optimism that I express my hope that her words will be heeded this time.
To mark this Day of Memory for Migrants, Rai 3 tonight showed the film Fuocoammare, directed by Gianfranco Rosi. I wrote about this film some months ago but had not seen it before tonight. The director spent 18 months on Lampedusa, filming a migrant boat trying to reach Italy, the rescue and recovery operation, the processing of the migrants once they reach the island and the daily life of the islanders, including that of ER medic Dr Pietro Bartoli. Prior to tonight's screening, Gianfranco Rosi told Panorama magazine that on Lampedusa he found a much more complex and multi-layered story than he had expected . He said,
"It is not a political film but we cannot let the Mediterranean be the tomb of people fleeing war, hunger and desperation... It is useless to erect barriers as walls have been toppled throughout history... People fleeing desperation and death have no choice."
Fuocoammare is to be Italy's entry for Best Picture in the 2017 Oscars but its nomination has given rise to controversy. Paolo Sorrentino, director of La Grande Bellezza, has raised an objection not because he doubts the film's merits but because he believes it should be entered in the documentary section. Others do not think the film is sufficiently commercial. I have an opionion but will leave those of you who intend to see it - and I hope many of you do - to make up your own minds. I will say that I couldn't speak for at least half an hour after watching it and twitter revealed that many Italians felt the same. It is my belief that the film should be compulsory viewing for all would-be builders of border walls.
I would also like to say that I am very proud of Italy tonight and will close with a quote from Dr Bartolo:
"È dovere di ogni uomo che sia un uomo aiutare queste persone - It is the duty of every man who is a man to help these people."