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

TTIP: why it is worth not to pull the covers over your head?

Did Draghi ask the Germans to accept a drastic change of austerity policies?

The ECB again takes care of the bankers not the people

It’s EU vs. Google for real: the time is now, the case is open

Facebook wins EU approval for WhatsApp acquisition; just a sign of the times

Does Greece really weigh what is asking for today in Russia?

EU Parliament semi worried over democratic deficit

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

The untold story of who caused and who pays for the economic crisis

EU budget: Reinforcing Europe’s cultural and creative sectors

The G7 should take the lead on ocean targets for 2020

The Commission tries to stop the ‘party’ with the structural funds

When connectivity is not enough: the key to meaningful digital inclusion

Can the US-Iran rapprochement change the world?

The refugee crisis seen through the eyes of a young doctor from Turkey

The EU risks trade relations with China over the Tata hype about steel

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “CO2 is not the problem, it is the symptom”, the pilots who crossed the world using solar energy cry out from Davos

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, at a 2015 event in Brussels, Berlaymont. (Copyright: European Union , 2015; Source: EC - Audiovisual Service; Photo: Lieven Creemers)

Hungary and Ireland build front to say no to EU tax harmonisation plan

Eurozone business activity again on upwards path

Medicine and mental health: relax, the doctor is a lifelong learner

A new crop of EU ‘Boards’ override the democratic accountability and undermine the EU project

MWC 2016 LIVE: Orange targets VoLTE and Voice over Wi-Fi; strikes Google partnership

Access to health in the developping world

EU Commission: Banking and energy conglomerates don’t threaten competition!

At last a good price for the Greek debt!

Chart of the day: These are the cities where the World Cup threatens productivity the most

Eurozone: Sovereign debt decreases for the first time since 2007

On youth unemployment: unemployment is even bleaker for youth with disabilities

EU to lead one more fight against climate change at G7 summit

The missiles fired against Damascus, Syria divided Europe deeply

A neo-liberal toll free Paradise for the super rich and tax hell for wage earners

Germany may have a stable and more cooperative government

Draghi tells the Parliament the ECB to use all its weaponry; euro slides to parity with the dollar

On our way to China

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

Canada leading the way on women’s inclusion and empowerment, says OECD

Cheap sea transport with low cost seafarers

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

It’s a lie Eurozone isn’t competitive

Refugee crisis update: Commission is struggling alone with little help from EU or G7 leaders

The EU spent €158 billion on vague, open-ended rural projects

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

The way to entrepreneurship in the developing world

The IMF sees Brexit’s ‘substantial impact’ while the world’s economy holds its breath

Does Switzerland really need more medical students?

A reflection of health inequity in recent epidemics

The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris is indeed our best bet for a secure climate future”, EU Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella cries out from Brussels

European banking stress tests 2014: A more adverse approach for a shorter banking sector

India is a latecomer to AI. Here’s how it plans to catch up

Predicting two more years of economic stagnation

Does the Erasmus program really contribute to the construction of a solid EU identity?

The four top Americans who flew to Europe perplexed things about Trump’s intentions

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “If we do not do properly the Paris agreement, then all 16 remaining goals will be undermined”, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cautions from Davos

The Parliament defies a politically biased Banking Union

Is the ECB enforcing the will of the big Eurozone member states on the small? Can the euro area live with that?

Ukraine: Is there a political force able to undo the division?

The EU to fight cross-border tax evasion with a toothless directive

A Sting Exclusive: “Regional Policy: a fully-fledged investment policy”, Commissioner Cretu reveals live from European Business Summit 2015

Commission: Raising the social issues that can make or break the monetary union

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 )

w

Connecting to %s