Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In tonight's look back at Sicily Scene over the last ten years, which focuses on migration, I was going to say that I hoped I would never have to write about incidents like this and this again.  Yet, exactly one year after the "Hecatomb" tragedy, it is probable that another large-scale migrant disaster has occurred in the Mediterranean.

I say "probable" because there are conflicting reports over exactly what has happened and the numbers involved but what I can glean is this:  Three days ago four inadequate boats carrying up to 500 migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia left Egypt for Italy and there has been no definite news of them since so they are believed to have capsized.  Relatives of some of the passengers have called Don Mussie Zerai of Habeshia because they had received calls from their loved ones aboard asking for help but there was no response when they tried to call them back. Then the BBC Arabic Service reported 400 passengers missing and 30 survivors but other news services are reporting 200 dead.  A man claiming to be a survivor said that 500 people were lost and that he was one of only 23 who survived.  UNHCR earlier put the number of survivors at 40.  UNHCR, the Italian Government, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Italian Coast Guard are all awaiting further information as I write. 

This comes two days after Pope Francis shamed Europe's leaders by actually doing something to help desperate people and three days after Italy's Premier Renzi presented his country's "Migration Compact" plan to the EU Commission and Council.  It has been generally welcomed.  The Compact proposes much closer cooperation with migrants' countries of origin and with transit countries, backed up by the use of dedicated funds which could come from Eurobonds [though the German government does not like this idea, preferring to tax petrol to raise the money]. Under the plan member states would commit themselves to actively helping with border control, reducing migration flows and with repatriation and readmission of migrants.  In addition, they would step up the fight against human trafficking.  Premier Renzi has also expressed his displeasure at the Austrian plan to erect a barrier at the Brenner Pass, a thoroughfare which Italy regards as essential for its trade.

With the closure of the Greek-Balkan migrant route, Italy is again preparing itself for a migrant influx, particularly as summer fast approaches.  Up to 6,000 migrants used the Libya-Italy route last week and 10,000 are estimated to have entered the country in March.  Italy continues to save lives in the Mediterranean and to treat migrant arrivals with a humanity sadly lacking in other parts of Europe.

Migration has been a subject close to my heart for the past ten years and my first post on a migration tragedy was this one , from 2006. It is short but illustrates the fact that no one was taking notice then. Since that time the world has been forced to acknowledge the crisis but not in the way I would have hoped: I have always been pro-EU and am entitled to vote in the forthcoming referendum on Britain's continuing membership. I shall vote "in" but, given that 28 countries, some of which are among the richest in the world, can find neither the political will nor the compassion to work together on this humanitarian crisis, even I have to ask what this organisation is for.

I know how it feels to leave your country and it is difficult even when you choose to do so, love the new one and have been fortunate enough to take with you the people and things that give you solace. No one displaces himself, leaving everything behind, without a valid reason.

A reminder that you can find links to all my migration posts here.

1 comment:

Saucy Siciliana said...

Excellent report Pat, your analysis is much better than what we read in the newspaper.


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