From this American perspective, my country appears to be one of the most beautiful on this planet. Maybe because I am living in a place where, like my Sudanese friend says, “the sun doesn’t work”, or maybe it’s because almost every day someone comes to me saying how much he loves Roman food or Tuscan hills.
It’s when I read newspapers that I suddenly remember why, at times, living in Italy makes me so angry:
(Titles from one of the main Italian newspaper: La Repubblica)
- March the 4th (2015): Shipwreck, 50 immigrants missing. 179 refugees saved.
- February the 11th (2015): Massacre of immigrants close to Lampedusa. The witnesses: more than 300 died.
- February the 9th (2015): Immigrants massacre on the offing of Lampedusa, 29 people frozen to death.
- January the 22nd (2015): New tragedy in Strait of Sicily: 20 immigrants missing in the sea.
The titles are basically the same. The main difference is in the order of the words. And every time I read about a new tragedy, it’s difficult to realize that I haven’t read the same news just one or two weeks before.
A quick internet research and I can easily find immigrants’ shipwrecks in the past December and again in November. October. September. August. July. June. May. April. March. Then a short truce…But in December 2013 the massacre restarts in the Mediterranean Sea.
They are all war refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants who leave their homes to reach Italian coasts and hopefully find a better life. An investigative report made by a group of European journalists, calculated that from 2000 to 2013, 28.000 immigrants died in their attempt to reach Europe. 8.000 of them lost their lives on the route to the Italian Island of Lampedusa or in the Strait of Sicily.
And every tragedy is followed by the same general disdain of European Leaders, who share the camera in TV news and talk shows to state the usual sentences: “It’s essential to do something, SOON.” – Applauses, appeals, tears. – Then the last act of the tragedy ends, the curtain falls and nobody realizes who could really do something. While international nonprofit organizations launch campaigns to not forget again.
Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum, which was implemented from October 2013 until late 2014, was responsible for the rescue of over 172,000 migrants, mainly reached in high sea. Since last November it has been replaced by Triton, a European Union joint operation primarily focused on border surveillance. With a budget 2,9 million euros per month, almost 2/3 less than Mare Nostrum, it only operates up to 30 miles from the Italian coast and not beyond that point, where the majority of immigrants need to be rescued.
The 2015 numbers already show the incompetence of the Triton humanitarian response. In the first 3 months of the year, over 470 immigrants died in the Mediterranean Sea. During the same period in 2014 the victims were 15. And although many European politics study strategy to reduce the immigration rate, people from Syria, the African Horn and many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa will not stop risking their lives to escape from hunger and conflict. It’s expected that up to one million migrants could reach Europe from Libya amid collapsing security in the North African country.
D., a 20-year-old migrant from Mali, among the survivors arriving at Lampedusa in February 2015, shared that “For hours I watched as my fellow passengers died one by one, exhausted by the cold, the waves, and the rain, letting themselves fall into the sea. I saw them drift away, with their hands close to the surface. But one couldn’t hold on for the few minutes necessary for help to come”. His story is the story of thousands of immigrants waiting to be heard. While Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union), which is responsible to manage the Triton program, states that “Frontex can’t cope” on its own with a migrant emergency in the Mediterranean. Italy claims the same, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitting that “more has to be done”.
With summer coming many more desperate people will start their journey to Italy soon. Let’s hope their rubber boat will take them to safety, alive, while our leaders continue their never ending discussion about how to stop this humanitarian crisis.