Friday, October 28, 2016


With the eyes of the world very much on events in Calais this week, the plight of migrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing to reach Europe has once again been largely forgotten by the international media. Yet it goes on, changing weather conditions render it even more dangerous and someone, somewhere, it seems, always profits from tragedy.

On Wednesday - Thursday night 51 people died in the Sicilian Channel because, according to survivors, a rough sea had caused the inadequate dinghies they were travelling on to capsize. Of the 339 survivors brought to Augusta, 25 were women and 31 were unaccompanied minors. Some were taken to hospital with burns caused by leaking fuel and two suspected people traffickers have been arrested.

On Tuesday a Médecins sans Frontières boat saved 107 people from a dinghy off the Libyan coast but their operatives found the bodies of 29 people lying in a mixture of fuel and seawater on board. These poor souls had died from their burns, from suffocation or from drowning.

Calais is not the only place where there have been ugly scenes this week as residents of Goro [Ferrara] protested against the planned arrival at a hostel there of 12 migrants by setting up road blocks. [I should point out that many migrant hostels are overcrowded and short of resources in Italy.] As one of the women was pregnant, a decision was made to take the group elsewhere but Interior Minister Angelino Alfano was quick to point out that this incident is not representative of Italy. The country, he said, is characterised by the young people who go to the quayside at Lampedusa to help with new migrant arrivals or Dr Bartolo of Lampedusa [who works tirelessly for both the inhabitants of Lampedusa and the migrants who arrive there].

Prime Minister Renzi, meanwhile, has said that, though it is clear that Europe cannot open its doors to all, EU states that build walls to keep out migrants should expect no funding from Italy.  He said EU states should work together to solve the migration crisis rather than playing on hatred and intolerance.

Pope Francis, as usual, put it simply and succinctly but managed to show that he understands the reasons for hardening attitudes.  In St Peter's Square on Wednesday he said,

"Today, the context of economic crises unfortunately fosters the emergence of attitudes that are closed and unwelcoming. In some parts of the world, walls and barricades are being erected. Closure [of borders] is not a solution as it ends up encouraging trafficking. The only path towards a solution is that of solidarity.”

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