Tuesday, June 03, 2014


On the evening when the British press are carrying the story of the sheer numbers of migrants intending to sail for Europe this summer under headlines such as Looming Migrant Tragedy [Guardian printed edition for 3.6.14], I would point out that it is not "looming". There have been many tragedies already and Italy has been asking for help in this situation for years.

On the night of 31st May - 1st June alone, the Italian Navy and other agencies involved in Operazione Mare Nostrum saved 3,517 migrants from various boats that had got into trouble in the Mediterranean. Among those rescued were children and pregnant women, one in her ninth month, and two migrants in a critical medical condition. 

The primary departure point continues to be Libya and most of the migrants are of Syrian and Eritrean origin. In order to accommodate all the migrants, 500 had to be taken to Lampedusa, although the reception centre there has been closed, whilst 2,000 others were transferred to various other locations in Ragusa. A further 1,000 were taken to Augusta [Siracusa] on Saturday. 

With the weekend arrivals, the total number of migrants who have reached Italy since the beginning of 2014 is over 43,000, equivalent to the number of arrivals for the whole of 2013.

An Eritrean who had made the journey from Libya told La Repubblica that he had crossed the Sahara to get there, a journey for which he had paid $1,450, and that, once he arrived in Libya, he was taken to a warehouse where, with other migrants, he was closely guarded, practically starved and forbidden to leave. He then paid his captors a further $1,450 for the sea voyage.  Police in Ragusa have arrested five people traffickers, who are also accused of endangering the lives of their human cargo and of subjecting them to inhumane treatment.

Operazione Mare Nostrum, Italy's humanitarian mission to save migrants undertaking these perilous journeys in the Mediterranean, continues to come under fire from many quarters because people believe it may be encouraging people traffickers. Prime Minister Renzi has said that Mare Nostrum must continue but that the EU must ask the UN to intervene in Libya. He has also said that Frontex [the European border agency] should be used more effectively. Elsewhere the option of creating a "safe migration corridor" from Africa is being widely discussed and the UN is considering the creation of holding centres for migrants in Africa. The latter may not be possible, though, because of the human rights records and instability of some of the states which would be involved.

Politicians continue to talk, Italy continues to carry out rescue missions and to deal with their aftermath largely alone, the EU continues not to see and people continue to die.


Whispering Walls said...

The horrors continue.

Lee said...

It's a topsy-turvy world and it's not getting any better. There are too many blinker-wearers around. I think there was a sale on blinkers!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Sadly they do, WW. I think you're right, Lee!


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