Monday, November 03, 2014


For years, Italy has been asking for EU help in the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean and now it has come - or has it?

As of 1st November, Triton, an operation financed by the EU and coordinated by Frontex [the European External Borders Agency] has replaced the Italian Operazione Mare Nostrum. [There is a two-month transition period.] I do not mean to suggest that lives will not be saved but there is a worry that any operation directed by Frontex will have border protection, rather than the humanitarian aspects of the situation, as its priority. Triton will cost €3 million per month as opposed to the €9 million monthly cost of Mare Nostrum, so there are obvious limits on its remit, one of which is that it will stop patrols outside a 30-mile limit from the Italian coast, whereas Mare Nostrum operatives patrolled much closer to Libya. Critics also say that Triton is not equipped to deal with the sheer numbers of people fleeing countries such as Syria. Amnesty International, migrant support agencies and human rights groups have expressed their concern.

According to figures tweeted two weeks ago by the Italian Navy, 150,810 people have been saved by Mare Nostrum operatives in the Mediterranean in the past year. Whatever operation is in force, frightened and desperate people continue to embark upon the perilous journey that they hope will enable them to reach the shores of Europe: on 30th October the Italian Coast Guard saved 276 migrants at sea and among these were 89 young Africans who say that 20 of their fellow-passengers were drowned off Libya. These survivors were brought to Pozzallo on Friday, as were other migrants who had been rescued earlier in the week. Others were taken to safety in Messina.

Meanwhile the British government, of whom I am thoroughly ashamed, has refused to participate in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean because its members think that such humanitarian actions will encourage more people to attempt the journey. Do they think it's a package holiday that migrants are taking? I very much doubt if there is anyone in Whitehall who has the faintest inkling of what is going on. 

The other day I heard a Sicilian woman say that Italy was "drowning" because of the migrant situation. Whilst it is true that Mare Nostrum has been costly and that migrants in reception centres receive a very meagre allowance from the Italian State, there are many reasons why Italy is floundering economically and the [usually temporary] presence of people whose only "crime" has been to seek a better life is not one of them.  It is the migrants, I fear, who will continue to drown.


Sabine said...

This week, my country is celebrating the end of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.
I wonder how many of the invited heads of state are actually plotting how to further reinforce the walls we are building around Europe now.

Who are we trying to keep out?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That's a very good question, Sabine.


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