Wednesday, March 21, 2012


At the end of 2011 it was thought that would-be immigrants heading for Europe via Italy's southernmost ports, often travelling in unfit boats operated by people-traffickers, had been, for the most part, discouraged from beginning their perilous journeys which almost always end in loss of hope if not tragedy.

As I reported last year, many of the desperate souls who take their chances in what I call the "boatloads of sorrow" had been fleeing retribution after the "Arab spring" and had been disembarked [often forcibly] on or near the Italian island of Lampedusa where the inhabitants are not unkind but fear for their own situation and their tourist industry.

In September frustrated North Africans being held in the island's refugee centre set fire to the building to draw attention to their plight and the Port of Lampedusa, having nowhere else to accommodate them, was declared  "unsafe" for any future new arrivals.  

Now, with an improvement in the weather, it looks as if the boats are going to start arriving in large numbers again and the Mayor of Lampedusa has asked the Italian government to reopen the refugee centre urgently.  

Nearly 300 refugees were rescued from three inadequate boats off the island on Saturday and sadly five people were found dead on one of them.  A pregnant woman travelling on the same boat was airlifted to a Sicilian hospital.  

Meanwhile another near-tragedy took place in the Port of Palermo yesterday when a young Tunisian, realising that he was about to be repatriated, threw himself from the deck of a ship onto the quayside.  He suffered several fractures and has undergone surgery in one of the city's hospitals.

Aid agencies have joined in the call upon Rome to reopen the refugee centre on Lampedusa before another tragedy strikes. UNHCR estimates that 60,000 refugees landed in Italy during 2011.


LindyLouMac said...

Oh no here we go again.

Jenny Woolf said...

It's dropped out of the news here, but clearly nothing has improved. Oh dear.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

It's such a sad situation for all concerned, LindyLouMac and Jenny.

Claude said...

I don't know what to say! It's hard to think that people, like you and me, have such a terrible life, in their own country, that they're willing to take incredible risks to flee away. And they're not even sure that they will be welcomed where they're going. Je ne sais pas quoi dire. Parfois, j'ai honte d'être humaine!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Claude, vous avez raison. Moi aussi, j'en ai honte.


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