Friday, May 09, 2014


Still they come, the inadequate vessels with their human cargoes fleeing situations which, for most of us, are unimaginable, and the Italian Navy, Coast Guard and other personnel are now saving an estimated 2,000 migrants a day. Operazione Mare Nostrum, the Italian humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean, has become highly controversial as it is being suggested, in some quarters, that it is encouraging migration and helping people traffickers to ply their trade.

On Wednesday alone 2,262 migrants were rescued at sea and brought to safety in Sicilian ports by the Italian Navy. Of these 1,142, among them a new-born baby, were brought to Augusta and 298, including 19 minors, to Pozzallo. Sadly the body of a young Eritrean man was found on one of the migrant boats. Police say he could have died from the hardships of the journey or from injuries sustained prior to it. Murder has not been ruled out as I write this on Thursday. Italian military saluted as the man's body was carried ashore.

This afternoon hundreds of migrants who had been rescued at sea yesterday and taken to the reception centre at Siculiana [Agrigento] escaped and put themselves in danger walking along the motorway towards Agrigento itself. This is only one of many such incidents in recent weeks, for all reception centres in Sicily are now overcrowded and have inadequate facilities.

Most of the migrants want to go north anyway and a lot further north than mainland Italy, where several mayors have made it clear that migrants would not be welcome in their towns. The Mayor of Chieti [Abruzzo] has written to Interior Minister Alfano saying that his town does not have adequate facilities for the migrants and suggesting that those already there are causing "social tensions" in the community. Here in Modica a group of parents protested last week because, having heard that some migrants had been diagnosed with scabies, TB and AIDS, they did not want their children to go on a school trip in a bus that had been used to transport migrants from Pozzallo to Ragusa.  Yes, I know there would be outrage and cries of "Racism!" if such a thing were to happen in the UK but here most people have some sympathy with the parents. None of this, of course, makes for happy communities.

Therefore a certain politician who landed on this island on Monday must have thought he would find fertile ground for his views. I refer to Mr Matteo Salvini, Federal Secretary of the Lega Nord. Mr Salvini said he had been "called" by the Sicilian people and had come to help them "because Sicily and Italy are [dealing with the situation] alone, while Europe doesn't care." Hmmm - last time I checked Sicily was still part of Italy, Mr Salvini but it is true that Europe, viewed from here, seems to be doing nothing. Mr Salvini believes that Operazione Mare Nostrum should be stopped as the money would be better spent on aid to migrants' countries of origin. Aid may well, in the end, be the only answer, but as I've said many times before, Italy cannot leave desperate people to die just metres from its shores.  It is interesting that the leader of a party whose very existence is founded on its disowning of the South suddenly finds himself "called" to be the saviour of Sicily.

No comments:


View My Stats