Tuesday, April 11, 2017

AN IRONY AND AN INITIATIVE - A MIGRATION POST

If I have been absent from this blog again, it is because, just like most of you, I imagine, the news of the past week has found me glued to my television screen and not in any positive way. Millions of words have been written about the shocking events themselves but I have seen little acknowledgement of the irony of wringing our hands over the treatment of children in a war-torn country and the refusal of many of our own countries to take in those very children - which brings me, again, to the theme of migration in the Mediterranean and its subsequent tragedies, which can only increase given the current situation.

On Friday 7th April the SOS Méditeranée ship Aquarius brought 432 migrants, including 77 minors, six of whom were aged between one and four and 59 of whom were unaccompanied, to Catania. The migrants had been saved by Aquarius and other ships from four migrant boats which had got into trouble off the coast of Libya.  Later the Italian Coast Guard ship Dattilo brought 1,131 migrants, saved in eight operations, to Catania along with one body. 

The above figures represent only a proportion of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean every day and it is not unusual for as many as 3,000 to be saved in just 24 hours.  To the Italian Coast Guard, Navy and NGOs such as SOS Méditerranée falls, too, the tragic task of recovering and bringing into port the bodies of those whose journey of hope brought them, not to their hoped-for destination, but to death and I have chronicled the sad numbers over the years.

There is, however, some good news for migrants in a world that doesn't seem to care about them and this news comes from Italy where, on 29th March, Parliament passed a law to protect unaccompanied child migrants: from now on their treatment should be consistent all over Italy, they cannot be deported, will be appointed individual, trained guardians and will have the same rights to healthcare, education and other services as Italian children. UNICEF has called it "a historic law" and you can read more about it here.  Well done, Italy, for shining a light amid so much darkness.

According to figures released by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, 25,845 unaccompanied child migrants reached Italy in 2016 and 4,000 have arrived here since the beginning of 2017. This article reports that in 2016 one person in every 113 in the world was a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum - not a figure we can be proud of in the 21st century.

I ask again and I direct my question to the men and women in power:  how can the world express horror at what is happening to civilians in a war zone and, at the same time, attempt to push them back when they flee for their lives?

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