Monday, May 09, 2011


Since my last update the term "Arab spring" has been coined and news of the migration crisis in its wake has at last been reported by the media of nations not directly affected. However, as certain EU states work out how they might tackle the problem by modifying the Schengen Agreement, tragedy again proves that it does not wait for bureaucracy:

On Friday an inadequate boat carrying up to 600 migrants foundered off the coast of Libya and no one knows how many of these perished.  UNHCR reports today that 16 bodies have been found, among them those of two babies.  It is unclear who, if anyone, is searching for the other passengers.  There are also, as I write, unconfirmed reports of a second boat which might have run aground nearby at the same time.  Some migrants who have already reached Lampedusa say that they saw it and enquiries are underway.

Then, in the early hours of  Saturday, what could have been another major tragedy was averted by the immediate and decisive action of Italian officials, military and ordinary citizens when a migrant boat got into trouble on the rocks off Lampedusa Island:  the Italians literally formed themselves into a human chain and bravely fought appalling sea conditions to bring 528 migrants, including 24 pregnant women, to safety.  I, for one, was humbled by the television pictures of the rescue and I can only salute the courage of all involved.  Later on Saturday the citizens of Lampedusa took toys, clothes and nappies to the children and babies who had been rescued and lampedusani children and police organised games for the migrant children, clearly demonstrating that on this island, the humanitarian spirit transcends all other concerns.  Sadly, three male bodies were found under the wrecked boat today and it is impossible to say whether there are more.  Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has declared that all the survivors are genuine refugees and therefore will not be deported.

The humanity and capacity for empathy of the Lampedusans was recognised by Pope Benedict at his Papal Audience of April 28th, when he commended them for their continuing kindness to the migrants arriving on their island.  He also tactfully expressed the hope that the authorities there would be able to maintain law and order in the interests of everyone. Representatives from Lampedusa who attended the Audience presented the Pontiff with a cross made from the wood of a migrant boat.  Yesterday during his visit to Venice the Pope urged Italians not to be afraid of difference and to welcome migrants.  This was a pointed message as the Veneto [though not Venice itself] is a stronghold of the anti-immigration Lega Nord.

Meanwhile, an agreement signed by Italy and Tunisia on 5th May allows for the repatriation of migrant Tunisians arriving in Italy after that date, plus another 800 who arrived before it.  However, in recent weeks the provenance of most new arrivals has changed, with the majority now fleeing Libya or Sub-Saharan countries.  The International Organization for Migration  [OIM in Italy]  is supporting a voluntary repatriation programme funded by the EU and managed by the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

Back on Lampedusa a Museum of Migration is being planned by the artist and singer Giacomo Sferlazzo of the cultural association Askavusa.  Mr Sferlazzo feels that society has a duty to remember and document what is happening, "for the sake of the children and grandchildren of these migrants - the future citizens of Europe."

31,528 African migrants have landed in Sicily since the beginning of 2011 and it is estimated that 1,000 have perished on their way here by sea.


Miss Footloose said...

The human tragedy of this situation is heartbreaking, and the solution not in sight. You have a personal perch from which to observe it close at hand, and it must make you feel helpless.

Whispering Walls said...

I was thinking about you when I heard that on the news

Rosaria Williams said...

This must put quite a strain on the inhabitants of Lampedusa. Thank God for their generosity.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, it's very sad, Miss Footloose. Being so near certainly means you see almost daily changes in the population of some towns here asnd I understand the concerns of the inhabitants of Lampedusa. Thanks, WW. It does, Rosaria. They are worried about their tourist industry, on which they survive and of course, the island's resources can only go so far.


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