Tuesday, April 14, 2009


"The sea - this truth must be confessed - has no generosity. No display of manly qualities - courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness - has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power. " - Joseph Conrad.

While so many of us, including me, were enjoying Easter among friends in warm, dry houses with plenty of food, hopelessness and tragedy were once more making their way towards Sicily, in the form of a twenty-metre boat carrying 321 desperate people [including six children], most of whom were from Somalia.

In possibly the roughest sea we have had this year, the inadequate boat ran aground off Porto Ulisse [Ispica] on Saturday. The Pozzallo Coast Guard and Sea Division of the Financial Police were called to the scene and, working in very difficult conditions, not only saved a child from drowning but managed to bring the boat and its human cargo to shore.

Most of the would-be illegal immigrants were in a pitiful state, suffering from dehydration and hypothermia after a five-day voyage. Some were immediately transferred to hospital, whilst others were taken to Pozzallo for identification purposes. Another group was taken to the Detention Centre at Cassibile. All received the medical treatment that they needed.

Among those taken to various hospitals were at least three of the children and I did hear, though cannot confirm this, that no one has claimed them. If this is true, one can only conjecture at the fear that afflicts their parents, if the latter were, indeed, on the boat, or what dreadful circumstance had led them to entust their children to others on such a dangerous journey if they were not. It is known that some of the group tried to run away once they were brought to safety and I remember from my own teaching of asylum seekers in the UK that some are terrified as soon as they see any sort of uniform. They must have lived through unimaginable horrors.

It is not yet known whether other members of the original group drowned before the boat reached Sicilian waters.

I feel for all in this terrible situation: for the clandestini themselves who would rather die on what they consider a voyage towards hope than stay where they are; for the Italian police and Coast Guard who risk their own lives when they go out to help the stranded boats; for the medical staff and social workers who have to work with and try to identify souls too frightened and traumatised to give the information that is needed; and for the communities that suddenly and involuntarily become "hosts" and feel themselves, rightly or wrongly, to be overwhelmed.

Yet again I realise I am lucky to sleep in my bed tonight.


Ardent said...

What a very sad story. My heart certainly goes out to the boat people. It must be traumatizing to get onto a boat, to suffer the roaring waves, howling winds and the possibility of drowning, in order to make it somewhere that may provide some hope of an existence.

We take so much for granted.

Whispering Walls said...

How many immigrants are now at detention centres in Sicily?

James Higham said...

The sea is indifferent, like the cosmos. Many times I wished it were otherwise.

sally in norfolk said...

very sad..... and as you say it makes you realise just how lucky you are :-)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Ardent. Yes, it must be terrible. Hi, WW. I can't find that figure but www.meltingpot.org will tell you how many centres are
currently operational and how many places there are in them. Hi, James. Yes, I remember you saying you had found yourself in danger at sea several times. Hi, Sally. It does, indeed.

jmb said...

We should all count our blessings for there are people worse off than we are and this is a prime example.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. Yes,it does make you count your blessings.


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