Saturday, September 26, 2015


In the week in which the EU made the best of a botched job while the world's attention has continued to be focused on events in Hungary, Croatia, Germany and Austria, over 4,000 migrants were rescued in the largely forgotten Sicilian Channel in one day [Sunday].  Most of these were initially brought to Sicily and Calabria before being taken to other regions of Italy. The unsung heroes of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard carry out large-scale rescues every single day and night and, whilst facilities for migrants here are far from perfect, reception is organised, medical checks are carried out and people are treated with humanity.

It seems to me that few people outside the "front line" countries in the Mediterranean migration crisis [Greece and Italy] will know that EUNAVFORMED, the joint EU military operation launched in the Mediterranean at the end of June to identify people traffickers' boats and bring their owners to justice, will, from 7th October, begin its second phase. This will allow operatives to destroy such boats in international waters once the migrants travelling on them have been transferred to authorised vessels. [There are, as you might expect, some worries about migrant safety in these circumstances.] Federica Mogherini, former Italian Foreign Minister and now High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has proposed that the operation be renamed Sofia, after the baby recently born to a migrant mother on a German rescue vessel.  Whether this is appropriate for such a potentially dangerous operation I will leave you to decide. [Any phase three of the operation would involve intervening in Libyan waters and on that country's coast and would require UN Security Council authorisation.]

While people are being marked, abused, treated like animals and shunted about like lorry-loads of old fridges, the argument about differentiating between economic migrants and refugees still rages and I would like to ask what is wrong with seeking a better life and where we would all be now if our ancestors had not done so.

It is unsurprising, then. that a lot of words have been spoken about migration during this sad and disturbing  week.  Here are some of those that have impressed me:

"Il ne faut pas oublier tout ce que les immigrés ont apporté à ce pays, les Picasso, Béart, Cioran... C'est une chance extraordinaire pour la France. Il y a peut-être parmi eux de futurs Aznavour, qui sait ?"  "We should not forget what immigrants have brought to this country - Picasso, Béart, Cioran...  It's an enormous opportunity for France. Perhaps there are some future Aznavours among them - who knows?"

- Charles Aznavour, singer

"I think, from space, borders are absurd."

- Yanis Varoufakis, politician

"If we're not able to tackle this issue, if we're not able to find sustainable solutions, you'll see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent".

- Frans Timmermans, Vice- President, European Commission

"I want a world where children can grow up safe from violence, free from poverty and protected from preventable diseases........ The images [of refugee children] have been so powerful over the last few weeks and unfortunately they're images that no one wants to see. No one wants to see children suffering the way they're suffering, I'm not a politician - politics is definitely not my strong point - but what I am is a father. Images like this are definitely something we never want to see."

- David Beckham, footballer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

"Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us."


Jenny Woolf said...

Pope Francis is amazing, isn't he? You have been writing about the migrants since long before they hit the news. It is a very worrying and sad situation.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, I think he's wonderful, Jenny. The situation just gets worse and, as you say, is so sad.


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