Sunday, February 13, 2011

A HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCY AND TWO TRAGEDIES

Image:  Wikimedia Commons


The Italian government has declared a state of emergency on the island of Lampedusa as the situation in North Africa impacts on Sicily and thence on other parts of Italy:  boatload after boatload of people fleeing Tunisia in panic has been arriving on the island since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali  and 4,000 clandestini arrived between Wednesday morning and Friday night, with Corriere della Sera reporting that a further 977 arrived  between midnight and 9 am on Sunday.

The Cie or Centre for Identification and Expulsion on the island, which had been closed for some time, reopened this afternoon after pressure from UNHCR, among other bodies, though the Cda, the "Welcome Centre" which also carries out health checks, has remained operative.  Officials say that health checks are proceeding efficiently on the island but that identification of all the arrivals is proving difficult.  After being checked, most of the new arrivals are being flown to centres in other parts of Italy where their cases will be assessed and this, of course, is going to be a laborious task.

It is clear that neither Lampedusa nor Italy as a whole should be expected to deal with the situation alone but Italy's call for urgent help from the EU has met with nothing but bureaucratic excuses, with the European Commission putting off discussion of the crisis until a scheduled meeting on 24th February.

While the EU drags its feet, people are dying on the high seas:  an overloaded boat carrying would-be illegal immigrants to Europe split in two in the Gulf of Gabès yesterday, killing one person and injuring another three.  Another passenger is still missing.  It is thought that this boat was taking its cargo of desperate souls to join a larger vessel bound for Lampedusa.

Meanwhile, a young Moroccan street trader set fire to himself in Palermo on Friday after being approached by police for a routine check on his documentation.  Discovering that the young man was trading illegally, although he was in possession of a "permission to stay" document, the police officers set about confiscating his goods.  At that point the man poured petrol over himself and set himself alight before the officers could stop him.  He is now in a critical condition in hospital.  I am willing to bet that the police officers approached him in a non-threatening way and did not confiscate his goods violently but who knows what fears the very approach of police may have reawakened in him? 

My heart goes out to the young trader, whose reaction was, of course, one of desperation and I am thinking tonight not only of those who are risking their lives in a probably futile attempt to enter Europe but of all who try to help them and who have to make decisions regarding their future.  

9 comments:

rosaria said...

Such a sad story, demanding our hearts and sympathies.

Patricia said...

We just heard about this situation through our local news media. What a tragic situation. I cannot imagine the reality of having to flee your homeland as a refugee in an attempt to reach safety for you and your family.

Betty (picture circa 1951) said...

Such a sad situation. Actually, the entire situation is sad. The poor man must have been terrified when he saw the police.

Winchester whisperer said...

Not good. Was there a women's protest against Berlusconi in Modica?

RNSANE said...

What a terribly tragic situation. People are so desparate when fleeing tyranny in their homelands. My heart goes out to them.

James Higham said...

But they declared a state of emergency when I was there. Did they lift it after that?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, very sad, Rosaria. Hi,Patricia. "there but for the grace of God go I." Hi, Betty. Yes, he must have been. Hi, WW. Yes, there was. I am proud of the women of Italy at this moment. Hi, Carmen. Yes, it's terrible. Hi, James. Yes, they did. This time it is much worse.

Saretta said...

These are tragedies indeed, but tragedies that keep repeating themselves. I hope things get better soon in Tunisia!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I echo that, Saretta.

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