Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SUMMER TIDES, 2016 - 5

Yesterday, while my own country continued to argue about free movement of people and where the Anglo-French border should be now that we are leaving the EU, I watched, unbelievingly, the television images I imagine all of you have seen too:  off the coast of Libya an Italian rescue boat approaches an inadequate fishing boat crammed full of migrants; there are so many people on board that some have to sit with their legs dangling over the side.  The rescue boat takes babies and children off first and as it backs away migrants start jumping into the sea, such is their desperation to be saved. Again I ask the question: would anyone do that if their lives in their countries of origin or in countries subsequently reached had not been in danger?

This was only one of 40 operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard yesterday, in which 6,500 migrants were saved, it was reported last night.  The Coast Guard were joined in the operations by the Italian Navy, non-governmental organisations, Frontex and EUNAVFOR MED [Operazione Sofia]. Today the Italian Ministry of Defence has updated the figures to 7,000 migrants saved and 47 operations in which the Italian Navy took part. The Navy alone rescued 2,500 people. Between Friday and Monday morning 10,000 migrants were saved in this stretch of sea.  

La Repubblica reports that a further 300 migrants, including 38 women and 68 children, were rescued by a British ship and brought to Porto Empodocle last night. Of these, 133 have scabies. A further 1,273 migrants, saved in the Sicilian Channel, are expected in Palermo today.  

One migrant with gunshot wounds has been transferred from Lampedusa to hospital in Palermo and newborn twins, suffering from dehydration and respiratory problems, have also been airlifted to the Sicilian capital. Their mother is now in hospital too.  

So many people and so much suffering but to some, they are just statistics. "No one wants them", commented a press reviewer on Sky News last night. "Do you know how it feels to be unwanted?" I ask a person who cannot hear me. "Do you know how it feels to leave your country, to have all choices taken away from you?" "Can you watch those pictures and not be moved?"  The answer to the last question would, I fear, be "Yes" and if that is the case, what has become of our common humanity? How will history judge "civilised" Europe on the way it behaved during the great migration crisis of the early 21st century?

Update at 22.17 pm CET:  ONUItalia [Italy at the UN] has just tweeted that 3,000 migrants have been saved in the Sicilian Channel today.

1 comment:

Sabine said...

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

from a poem by Warsan Shire (http://www.commondreams.org/further/2015/09/04/no-one-leaves-home-unless-home-mouth-shark)


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