Hundreds of thousands migrants ready to cross the Mediterranean. Only a local matter?

Herman van Rompuy, Jean Asselborn, Luxembourgish Minister for Foreign and European Affairs; Minister for Immigration and Asylum, and José Manuel Barroso (from right to left)

Herman van Rompuy, Jean Asselborn, Luxembourgish Minister for Foreign and European Affairs; Minister for Immigration and Asylum, and José Manuel Barroso (from right to left) (EC Audiovisual Services)

Every year, with the advent of spring temperatures get high and the conditions of the sea improve. This is not just good news for the European citizens, hungry for some mild climate after months of snow and rain, but actually what thousands and thousands of immigrants are waiting for to sail towards Europe, leaving the African coast behind. This is actually the start of a cyclical humanitarian emergency for the whole Mediterranean area.

Already this year the alarm bell rang for the Union. Last week the Italian Government warned that at least 800,000 migrants are about to depart the North African coast for Europe. Italy’s reception system is already at the point of collapse, as officials said in Rome. “We no longer have a place to take them, and locals are overwhelmed by the constant arrival of foreigners”, border police Chief Giovanni Pinto told a joint meeting of the foreign and defence committees in the Senate. According to Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, more than 20,500 migrants have already landed on Italy’s coasts to date this year.

This shows an enormous increase over the 2,500 reported during the same period in 2013. Recent appraisals reveal that the record level of 2011, when more than 62,000 people reached the Italian coasts, could be reached easily this year. As published by Italy’s Interior Ministers officials and reported by ANSA – the leading wire service in Italy – almost 1,200 asylum seekers landed in Sicily last Friday. Another 300+ North African asylum seekers were rescued south of Sicily and taken to the port of Messina on Thursday. Also earlier this Friday the Navy rescued 358 migrants in the Sicilian Channel between Italy and Africa. On top of that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that a total amount of 1,100 people were saved by the Italian Navy’s vessels over last Easter’s long weekend. The asylum seekers said they came from Mali, Ghana, Niger, Sudan, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.

Italy, with its southernmost province just 80 miles from Libya, is historically the gateway for thousands of clandestine migrants, and the situation got way worse since the political context in many Northern African countries became fragile after the Arab Spring. “We aren’t dealing with a government that can establish treaties”, said Pinto, referring to Libya in particular. “We have no interlocutors. There’s no prime minister…there are no ministers”, he declared, as reported by ANSA recently. Pinto also praised the efforts of the Mare Nostrum program, which “has given excellent results”, he said.

The Mare Nostrum sea patrol and rescue mission was launched in October 2013, right after the Lampedusa disaster, to prevent deaths at sea and other humanitarian tragedies. On that October 3rd 2013, a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa and the confirmed death toll after searching the boat was 359, although the total number of dead was later reported as “more than 360”. A second shipwreck occurred the same month, on October 11, causing 34 confirmed casualties. Opponents of Mare Nostrum have argued the program only encourages migrants to risk their lives and cross the Mediterranean, often in overcrowded and decaying boats.

Italy is officially appealing for international help. During a cabinet meeting on the “Mare Nostrum” sea patrol earlier last week Premier Matteo Renzi vowed to request more commitment from the European Union. The Interior Minister Angelino Alfano stated to the national daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that “Europe should know that Italy is a welcoming country, but we cannot accommodate everyone”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said that Italy must have more financial help.

If the overall situation in Italy looks complex – to put it mildly – also around Spanish borders things are alarming. “We have a migratory wave of thousands and thousands of people who want to reach Spain and the EU illegally,” Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz warned last March. He stated that 40,000 sub-Saharan Africans were already in Morocco waiting to cross into Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s North African enclave territory. He also warned that “40,000 more [migrants] are at the border between Mauritania and Morocco”. The enclaves have long been seen by migrants as a way to reach the “promise land” Europe without having to attempt a treacherous Mediterranean crossing. On the same day, March 6th, Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, also said the mass influx of immigrants was not just Spain’s problem, but Europe’s, and he called for more EU cooperation.

What is certain is that many of the migrants which enter the European Continent via its southernmost borders every year see Italy and Spain only as a passage to reach the northern countries, like France, Germany or the UK. So this is one of the biggest challenges for all the nations of the Eurozone.

Every year, with the advent of spring, when the conditions of the sea improve, Europe has a chance to demonstrate that the Union exists, and that it’s able to speak with one voice.

Follow @carlomotta on Twitter

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Do academia and banks favour a new Middle Ages period?

What the world will look like after the Iran and 5+1 deal; the US emerges as major power broker in Middle East

Impressive African health gains at risk from changing trends: WHO report

Τhe EU Refugee Crisis: a day in the life of a Refugee in Greece

Lithuania should find its own way in the EU

ECB embarks on the risky trip to Eurozone banking universe

Senior UN children’s advocate says they ‘should never be targeted by violence’

RescEU: MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

‘Habitual residence’ rules deprive EU workers from social benefits

Is this the way to finally beat corruption?

Three ways the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaping geopolitics

Why the World Cup is a bit like international trade

Security Council downsizes AU-UN mission in Darfur, eying eventual exit

iSting: a reader’s thoughts on the UN Environment Assembly 2017

UN says ‘many humanitarian achievements’, one year after ouster of ISIL from Mosul

Scotland and First Minister Salmond enter the most challenging battlefield for independence: Europe

One in three fish caught never gets eaten

Europe turns out more jobs this summer

5 charts that explain big challenges facing Italy’s new government

The cost of healthcare is rising in ASEAN. How can nations get the most for their money?

Technological innovation can bolster trust and security at international borders. Here’s how

What options the new President of Ukraine has?

Will Western Balkans respond positively to EU initiatives?

A Sting Exclusive: “Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the new Sustainable Development Agenda”, Ulf Björnholm underscores from UNEP Brussels

Chart of the day: This is what violence does to a nation’s GDP

Can the Americans alone determine the future of Syria?

Brexit Update: EU endorses unprecedented compromise to help Cameron out of the referendum mess he got himself into

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

Bram in Colombia

Commission’s Youth Initiative fails first hurdle by not sufficiently consulting young people

Five years down the drain

The Brussels bureaucracy blocks the Youth Guarantee scheme

“Fortress Europe”, “Pegida” and its laughing stocks

Unlock the value proposition for Connected Insurance

The Brits are not an exception and that’s why they voted to leave

Crimean crisis: not enough to slow down European indices

My Mothers

Germany readies to pay for the Brexit gap in EU finance

EU Commission announces Safe Harbour 2.0 and a wider Data protection reform

Fostering global citizenship in medicine

Yanis Varoufakis: “Unsustainable debt turns the creditor into Leviathan; Life under it is becoming nasty, brutish and short”

Germany to help China in trade disputes with Brussels

Here’s how data could make our cities safer

Bugged Europe accepts US demands and blocks Morales plane

The banks first to benefit from the new euro trillion ECB plans to print

Zuckerberg preaches that Artificial Intelligence will protect Data Privacy in Facebook whereas Verhofstadt demands the big European state to take charge

A Sting Exclusive: “Youth voice must be heard in climate change negotiations!”, Bérénice Jond Board Member of European Youth Forum demands from Brussels

‘Laser-sharp focus’ needed to achieve Global Goals by 2030, UN political forum told

A few, or rather two, trade and economic alliances may rule our brave new world

Alexandre in Czech Republic

These countries are all building brand-new cities

EU accused of being too nice with Gazprom in the infamous antitrust case

Parliament: Last compromise on bank single resolution mechanism

Lack of investment and ambition means Youth Guarantee not reaching potential

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

Debunked: 5 myths about the future of work

European Business Summit 2014: The role of youth entrepreneurship education in EU’s Strategy for Competitiveness

A day in the life of a Rohingya refugee

EU opens a third antitrust file against Google

EU budget: Will Germany alone manage Britain’s gap?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s