Thursday, June 02, 2011


Despite the fact that the Italian government is evacuating migrants from Lampedusa as quickly as it can and deporting many of them, the "boatloads of sorrow" continue to arrive, both there and in other locations along the Sicilian coast.  

On Monday night a suspicious boat was spotted 22 miles off Portopalo di Capo Passero [Siracusa Province] and was boarded by Italian police and Coast Guard after it failed to respond to requests to stop.  On board, police found 932 migrants crowded together, among them 129 women, some of whom were pregnant, and 30 children.  The boat was towed to Pozzallo [Ragusa Province] where, after medical checks, ten of the migrants were hospitalised.  Others were accommodated in the town's Cpa [Identification Centre] but, as there was not enough room, a tendopoli [" tent city"] was constructed to house the rest.  The Mayor of Pozzallo has expressed the hope that Pozzallo will not become a "new Lampedusa" and has asked for help from central government.

The nine people traffickers responsible for the boat have been arrested.  They are of Egyptian, Algerian and Morroccan nationality.

Meanwhile, back on Lampedusa itself, four Tunisians who, along with around 200 others, have been held in the Cpa for several weeks, injured themselves with razors and pieces of glass last night as a protest.  Their medical condition is being monitored.

The Lampedusani, although worried, at this time of year, about their tourist industry, continue to demonstrate their humanitarian instincts and many cried two weeks ago at a funeral service for three North African migrant men who drowned trying to reach their island's shores:  

"These young men did not have a mother to cradle them at the moment of death as Christ did", said the Priest of Lampedusa, don Stefano Nastasi at the service, "and their death is the result of our failure to help them".

On Tuesday British politician Nick Griffin MEP  visited Lampedusa to see the situation there for himself and he met members of the extreme right Forza Nuova party.  Mr Griffin also went to Catania where he joined a demonstration demanding that Italians be considered first when it comes to jobs, housing, state benefits and public services.

In my opinion Mr Griffin's visit was unhelpful and potentially inflammatory.  What Lampedusa needs is help from the EU as a whole.  The likes of Marine Le Pen and Mr Griffin should stay away.

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