Thursday, April 10, 2014


Looking at the situation from Italy, it often seems that the rest of the world notices the migration crisis only when there is a tragedy but today the sheer numbers of people who have had to be rescued, mostly in the Sicilian channel, have made international headlines. The figure this afternoon was estimated at 4,000 since Monday and Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has said that 15,000 have been rescued since the beginning of this year.

Over 1,000 of the migrants rescued on Monday have been brought to the Sicilian ports of Augusta and Pozzallo and a naval vessel carrying a further 300 is tonight heading for the Port of Catania. Sadly, this ship is also transporting a dead body found on one of the inadequate boats which got into trouble at sea. 

Mr Alfano has repeated his earlier claim that 300,000 - 600,000 people are currently preparing to risk the voyage from North Africa so no let-up is expected during the summer months. Whether or not this figure is correct, Mr Alfano has, with justification, again lamented the fact that there has been little help from the rest of the EU. 

At the end of March José Angel Oropeza, Director of the International Organisation for Migration's Italy and Malta Coordinating Office, advocated the setting up of "migrant stations" along the routes from Africa so that people can receive assistance and information on how to reach Europe legally. In Italy, it is being said in some quarters that Operazione Mare Nostrum is encouraging people trafficking but how can a humane country which, whatever its problems, is the fourth largest economy in Europe and ninth in the world, leave people to die in its waters?  Dr Christopher Hein of the Italian Council for Refugees says the mission must continue and that legal and safe channels for migration must be opened. 

Meanwhile, with Italy's reception centres bursting at the seams, many of the migrants rescued so far this week are being taken to private accommodation such as hotels. The cost of such measures has already scandalised some Northern League politicians, who recently challenged Prime Minister Renzi and Mr Alfano to put migrants up in their own homes. [I think they should do just that, not only to call their opponents' bluff but also to show humanity.]  Silvia Canciani of Asgi points out that many of the problems which ensue once the migrants are brought to safety in Italy are caused by the country's outdated system for dealing with asylum-seekers.

Update at 12.47 pm., 10.4.14:

A friend told me this morning that she had seen, in Modica, a large group of migrants, some without shoes, who had obviously run away from a reception centre. They were just walking in the middle of the road, presumably with little idea of where they were but trying to continue what they hope will be a journey to Northern Europe.

Interior Minister Alfano has said,

"At the moment Italy is the reception centre of the world. Our ships are going as far as 30 miles off the Libyan coast in order to stop the Mediterranean from becoming a cemetery, to prevent people from dying in their thousands. This is a job we are willing to do, but we ask not to have to do it alone."


Whispering Walls said...

Pompey would have found a solution.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I imagine so, WW!


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