Camp of the Saints: Opening the Floodgates

Lampedusa refugees #17

So many new articles about the Mediterranean refugee crisis have fallen into my hands that it will require a large post to cover everything. To begin with, here are the three most recent stories, which are quite interesting — and a bit peculiar.

The Italian interior minister says that the repatriation agreement with Tunisia is working. I’m not entirely certain what he means by “working” — it isn’t functional by any standard measure. Perhaps he is simply saying that it is unfolding according to plan, which may well be true:

(AGI) Civitavecchia — At the delivery ceremony for four motorboats to Tunisia Maroni said the agreement with Tunisia is working. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni explained: “The agreement is working and I have to thank Tunisia and the Tunisian police for the action they are taking the results achieved.” The agreement between the two countries was signed on 5 April.

As I have pointed out repeatedly, the agreement with Tunisia specifies that:

1.   Tunisia will vigorously interdict would-be emigrants along its own coast, using funds and equipment supplied by Italy for that purpose, and
2.   The Italians may repatriate no more than sixty migrants per day.

Tunisia is not doing all that well with #1, since somewhere between 200 and 1,500 refugees are arriving daily at Lampedusa and other ports in Italy. This means that #2 is doomed to failure, since Italy can return no more than sixty of those daily arrivals — that is, between 70% and 96% of the new arrivals are destined to remain in Italy (unless they manage to sneak into France or Switzerland).

To make matters worse, many — if not most — of the latest arrivals are coming directly from Libya, which means that the agreement with Tunisia will have no effect on them whatsoever.

In other words, the agreement meant that the Tunisians got a lot of fancy new boats, and the Italians got some photo-ops for politicians in which continuing progress can be repeatedly announced.

That’s probably what Mr. Maroni means by “working”.

In a bizarre twist, Nigerian sailors on one of the refugee boats are alleged to have sacrificed a number of victims to the undines in order to assure a smooth passage across the straits to Lampedusa. The Italian authorities are now investigating the case:

(AGI) Agrigento — Agrigento prosecutors open an enquiry against unknown people after reports of migrants being thrown into the sea. The accusation was made by a 16 year-old Ghanaian who arrived at Lampedusa on 1 May along with 460 other people. The boy told the Agrigento flying squad that Nigerian sailors had thrown at least five refugees into the sea, including his brother, in propitiatory sacrifices to calm the waters and placate angry spirits.

The final article from today’s batch concerns the typical behavior of culture-enrichers in their new home: causing violent trouble:

(AGI) Ventimiglia — About ten Tunisian immigrants have been involved in a brawl near the mouth of the River Roja in Ventimiglia. One person was injured and taken to hospital with a cut hand. Both the police and the Carabinieri were called to the scene and one person has allegedly been arrested. A number of witnesses said they had seen a knife appear and this could be linked to the Tunisian who was hurt.

Moving into the older articles: Italy is not happy with the EU’s lack of response to the refugee crisis. It seems that Brussels is all talk and no action. Are we surprised?

(AGI) Novara — The extraordinary EU Council meeting in Brussels “didn’t go particularly well. The proposals put forward are always very interesting but then they fail to materialize words into actions”. This is the reply given by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni before a rally in Novara to reporters asking him the outcome of the Extraordinary European Council meeting that convened today in Brussels.

On the other hand, the European Union is adamant that its member states may do nothing to handle the refugee crisis on their own:

EU Warns Against Unilateral Suspension of Schengen

(AGI) Brussels — The EU warned against unilateral decisions by individual states to suspend the Schengen treaty. In a pause in the work of the extraordinary Home Affairs Committee on the immigration emergency, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom advised against such actions as they could “set off a chain reaction.” Malmstrom emphasised that the morning’s debate had led to “a strong unanimity” on the need “to safeguard Schengen,” and also if necessary “that procedures are clear to avoid unilateral decisions.”

Switzerland is obviously worried about being forced to share Italy’s cultural enrichment, and is looking for ways around Schengen:

Swiss Minister in Brussels for Refugee Talks

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga is in Brussels on Thursday for a special meeting about proposed changes to the Schengen rules on passport-free travel.

The Swiss minister will join European Union interior ministers to discuss the temporary introduction of border controls to cope with an influx of North African asylum seekers.

They are looking for a way to introduce the temporary reintroduction of border controls while upholding Schengen law. Currently, it allows the 25 participating nations to perform border controls in the event of a serious threat to public order or national security.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the media in Berlin on Wednesday that the freedom of movement of European citizens should not to be restricted in any way.

The agenda on Thursday also includes discussion of the distribution of 1,000 refugees from war-torn countries.

Greece is opposed to any alteration in the Schengen Agreement, in the hope that adjacent nations will receive some of the excess refugees and ease its overload:

Greece Opposes Suspension of Schengen, Minister Stresses

Brussels — Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Thursday stressed Athens’ support for any proposal that strengthens the Schengen treaty but also its rejection of any “thoughts that reverse Community entitlements”.

Speaking at the EU justice and home affairs ministers’ council held in Brussels, he urged his counterparts to look forward to deeper European integration and not “back to a pre-EU era”.

Papoutsis said it was positive that the problems caused by migration flows at the EU’s external borders were recognised as a European and not just national problem, requiring “real solidarity between member-states”. He called for ways to further enhance the practical implementation of the principle of solidarity and a just distribution of the burden between member-states, noting that any other approach could only lead to harmful and disintegrative phenomena that would act against the best interests of the EU and its citizens.

He called for measures that would boost the efforts of member-states to guard the EU’s external borders and promote better policing in order to deter illegal entry.

The minister stressed that weight should be placed on strengthening control of external borders and tackling any shortfalls and not on ‘punishing’ member-states that were on the outskirts of the EU.

Papoutsis also underlined that creating an area without internal borders and the free movement of European citizens within the Schengen area was one of the fundamental principles of the EU and the most basic pillar for European integration that had to be protected at all costs.

He noted that proposals for mechanisms to suspend participation in specific sections and restore controls at internal borders essentially changed the entire structure of the Schengen entitlements and created issues of agreement with the EU Treaty itself and the fundamental principles that this envisages. Such a suspension mechanism might even be consider contrary to EU law, he warned.


Among the minister’s suggestions was a common European policy for migration and asylum that would reduce the burden of increased migration flows for member-states on the external borders, one that would redistribute illegal migrants to member-states based on population, economic and geographic criteria.

He stressed the need to revise current regulations in the Dublin II treaty that placed the burden of coping with migrant flows exclusively on the shoulders of member-states on the external borders of the EU, which were called on to shoulder the burden for the EU as a whole.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Now we’ll get into the culture-enrichers that arrived over a three-day period. I went through this list and collated all the numbers in an attempt to obtain an overall total. The results, displayed in tabular form at the bottom of this post, are only tentative, since some of the similar numbers may be duplicates, while others may have been left out of the final tally.

First, in a departure from the usual pattern, a boat landed near Agrigento in Sicily:

(AGI) Agrigento — A boat with 213 persons on board, including 10 women and 2 children, has arrived in the port of Licata (Agrigento). The refugees sailed off from Libya and had come [from] Sub-Saharan African countries. The boat was sighted a few miles off the coasts of Licata and was then escorted into the port by a Coast Guard patrol boat. All the passengers have been fed and then transported by bus to the reception tent within the Porto Empedocle complex.

The rest of the landings seem to have been in Lampedusa:

(AGI) Lampedusa — A boat with 166 immigrants on board arrived in Lampedusa at 7 this morning escorted by a financial police ship after launching an SOS while in the Sicily Channel. The refugees, including nine women and four children, come from Sub-Saharan Africa. A plane of the financial police spotted three boats on their way towards the Italian coasts, while other two have just left Libya.

More extensive information about the same incident was posted by AKI, along with information on later arrivals:

Lampedusa, 13 May (AKI) — A people smuggling boat with 166 migrants aboard reached Italy’s tiny southernmost Lampedusa island from Libya on Friday. Italy’s coastguard and navy are tracking four other migrant boats expected to reach Lampedusa from North Africa transporting at least 1,000 people.

The migrants who reached Lampedusa included nine women and four small children. Four people were taken to hospital for checks but the rest were said to be in good health.

A total of 129 migrants aged 15-17 were due to be transferred on Friday from Lampedusa to youth communities in Sicily and the Italian mainland. They include a Nigerian girl and 11 Tunisians.

The Italian branch of Save the Children said it wanted Italian authorities to cooperate with the charity and keep it informed on how these and other vulnerable youngsters arriving from North Africa will be taken care of.

Mr. Maroni took aim at the EU once again for its failure to take any substantive action to deal with Italy’s refugee crisis:

Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni on Thursday levelled fresh charges of ‘inaction’ towards the European Union and its member states over the humanitarian emergency in the southern Mediterranean.

Despite promises made last month, the EU borders agency Frontex had not even started discussing the possibilities of patrolling the Tunisian coast together with the authorities in Tunisia, Maroni said at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.

On Tuesday, Maroni warned that 10,000 migrants had already reached Italy from Libya since a bilateral pact between the two countries was suspended after the conflict began in the North African country in mid-February.

“If the war (between government forces and pro-democracy rebels) does not end, we’ll soon have 50,000 and we’ll have to keep them all,” he said, speaking in Paris where he was attended a G8 meeting of interior ministers.

Maroni on Wednesday presented his Tunisian counterpart Habib Essid with four patrol boats to be used to stop migrants from leaving for Italy. Under a pact signed in March, Italy can deport 60 Tunisian migrants a day.

Some later arrivals:

Migrants: 5 More Boats Are Steaming Toward Lampedusa

(AGI) Rome — There are at least five boats full of migrants crossing the Strait directed toward Sicily. A Libyan fishing boat landed this morning in Lampedusa with 220 migrants. The boats en route should carry about one thousand people.

And again, with some repetitions:

More Than 500 Migrants Are Reportedly on One of the Boats

(AGI) Lampedusa — During the night, the Guardia di Finanza’s ATR 42 sighted 6 boats full of migrants off the coast of Lampedusa. One of the boats has already made landfall with 166 persons of sub-Saharan origin (including 9 women and 4 minors), escorted by the Coast Guard Patrol boat “Paolini”. The other 5 boats (one of which might be carrying over 500 persons) will reach land after 10:00 am. One of the boats was reached by the Guardia di Finanza’s SS Vitali, which will escort it into the port.

Two boats were rescued:

Two Fishing Boats With 635 Immigrants Rescued Off Lampedusa

(AGI) Agrigento — Another 635 refugees who sailed from Libya on two aging fishing vessels have arrived in the port of Lampedusa on Coast Guard vessels a little after 3 p.m. The vessels were sinking and the immigrants were moved to Coast Guard boats. The first fishing boat carried about 142 people while the second one carried a further 493 immigrants, all moved to three Coast Guard boats and three more from the Financial Police. There were many women and children on both boats, some of the women are pregnant and are now receiving medical assistance. The other migrants have been handed over to the police to be taken to a welcome centre. Since 7 a.m. this morning over 1,200 refugees have arrived on the island .

This story seems to describe different landings:

Over 600 Migrants Land at Lampedusa & Another Boat Arriving

(AGI) Agrigento — Three boats carrying over 600 migrants landed at Lampedusa this morning. After the first boat with 166 people, two more arrived with the assistance of the Coast Guard. One of them carried 256 people, including 16 women and three minors, while the other had just under 200 people on board. In the meantime the Coast Guard is guiding a fourth boat carrying a few hundred people to Lampedusa. It is the same boat that warned of its presence last night via satellite phone.

And then a daily wrap-up:

(AGI) Agrigento — A total of 1,257 refugees, among them 167 women, some pregnant, and 21 minors have arrived today in Lampedusa on five fishing boats. They all came from Libya and are originally from countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They have accompanied to a refugee centre in Imbriacola and some to the former Loran base for identification procedures.

A slightly different version from ANSA, with the blame placed squarely on Col. Moammar Qadafi:

Over 1,200 Migrants Arrive in Lampedusa, Gaddafi Blamed

Frattini says Libyan regime using ‘criminal instrument’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 13 — Italy accused besieged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi of people-trafficking on Friday after around 1,200 migrants from North Africa arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on six different boats.

The Italian foreign minister lays it out very clearly:

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Corriere della Sera’s website that the migrant arrivals were a “criminal instrument used by Gaddafi’s regime” against Italy for being part of an international alliance that is supporting Benghazi-based rebels.

Frattini said he expected the regime’s alleged role in organising people-trafficking to be included in a dossier the International Criminal Court is preparing on Gaddafi. How deadly crossing the Channel of Sicily can be was highlighted by United Nations refugee agency UNHCR Friday, which estimated 1,200 people had died in the Mediterranean this year trying to flee conflict-hit Libya. Most of the around 30,000 people to have landed in Italy this year following unrest in North Africa have arrived in Lampedusa, a favourite destination as it is nearer to Tunisia than Italy.

At first the majority of them came from Tunisia.

But the flow from that country has been largely stemmed by an agreement Italy reached with the new government in Tunis offering aid and assistance in exchange for stiffer maritime checks and repatriations.

And another indictment of inaction on the part of the European Union:

Italy has accused its European partners of not doing enough to help before angering them by issuing many of the migrants with temporary residence visas that enabled them to move freely within the 25-state Schengen area.

The tension has subsided after Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed at a bilateral summit this month to seek changes to the Schengen Treaty to allow for the “temporary reinstatement” of state borders in certain cases.

These changes were accepted at the European level.

But Italy still feels it has been largely left alone to handle the problem and Frattini and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni both called on the EU to do more Friday.

“A month ago Europe promised initiatives that still have not been adopted and refugees continue to arrive from Libya,” Maroni said.

This account seems to describe yet another series of landings:

416 Immigrants Land in Lampedusa Over Night

(AGI) Palermo — 416 persons arrived in Lampedusa on two different boats over night, bringing the total number of immigrants landing on the island in the past 24 hours to 1700.

One boat carried 198 refugees from Libya and Sub-Saharan Africa, including 20 women and a child. The second boat transported 218 Tunisians including 5 women and a child.

The following article gives a general description that can’t be matched with any individual landings. It also gives a broad overview of the crisis as it has evolved since the beginning of the year:

Over 550 Migrants Arrive in Lampedusa, More on Way

Coast guards hope boat at sea is one that launched SOS signal

(ANSA) — Rome, May 13 — Over 550 migrants from North Africa arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on three different boats on Friday and hundreds more are on the way in other vessels.

Italian coast guards are trying to establish whether a boat near the island carrying around 200 refugees is the same one that launched an SOS call in the night before all trace of it was lost.

Lampedusa is the destination migrant boats from North Africa head to as it is nearer to Tunisia than Italy.

Most of the around 30,000 people to have landed in Italy this year following unrest in North Africa arrived there, causing a major humanitarian crisis on the island for weeks before a system was organised for relocating them.

It is estimated that more than 800 others have lost their lives in the Channel of Sicily in 2011, including at least 150 in a single boat wreck early in April. The majority of the migrants have come from Tunisia, although the flow from that country has been largely stemmed by an aid-and-assistance agreement Italy reached with the new government in Tunis.

But increasing numbers of migrants are now coming from conflict-hit Libya, many originating from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Italy suspects Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is now using people-trafficking as a weapon against Italy for being part of an international alliance that is supporting Benghazi-based rebels.

The migrant crisis has caused diplomatic friction between Italy and its European neighbours, especially France.

Italy has accused its European partners of not doing enough to help before angering them by issuing many of the migrants with temporary residence visas that enabled them to move freely within the 25-state Schengen area.

As a matter of interest, the estimate of 30,000 seems low. I’ve been tracking the numbers as closely as possible since the Italian government placed the total at 27,000, and more than 5,000 additional arrivals have been cited since then, plus the 2,000 that just landed in a single three-day period.

To collate and total what was listed in these news items, I went through and pulled out landings in which specific numbers were given, and eliminated the obvious duplicates. The results below — in which the dates are only approximate — can be correlated with some of the totals given in the articles above, so they are probably not too far off:

Date   Landing   Origin   #
May 12   Agrigento (Sicily)   Libya   213
  Lampedusa   Libya   220
May 13   Lampedusa   Libya   166
  Lampedusa   Libya   142
  Lampedusa   Libya   493
  Lampedusa     256
  Lampedusa     200
May 14   Lampedusa   Libya   198
  Lampedusa   Tunisia   218

On a daily basis, the totals are:

Date   Total
May 12   433
May 13   1257
May 14   416

These give us a three-day total of 2106, for an average of more than 700 a day.

Tunisia will accept the return of no more than sixty of those daily arrivals, and most of them are arriving from Libya, which makes the agreement with Tunis irrelevant. There will be no similar agreement with Libya, at least until Col. Gheddafi is toppled, and maybe not even then.

Italy has a major crisis on its hands. I keep saying that the situation is not stable, and can’t go on like this, and yet it does, week after week.

But for how much longer?

Hat tips: AC, C. Cantoni, Insubria, and Kitman.

8 thoughts on “Camp of the Saints: Opening the Floodgates

  1. The Italian interior minister says that the repatriation agreement with Tunisia is working. I’m not entirely certain what he means by “working” — it isn’t functional by any standard measure.

    When Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni says that the repatriation agreement is “working”, what he really means is that he is still “working”; as in not yet having lost his job over this blatant fiasco.

    Such a bald-faced lie being fobbed off as fact is the hallmark of a careerist politician and nothing else.

  2. “German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the media in Berlin on Wednesday that the freedom of movement of European citizens should not to be restricted in any way.

    Are refugees European citizens?

  3. DeltaE —

    Are refugees European citizens?

    Ah, there’s the rub. It all depends on who is interpreting the laws.

    The Italians are giving them temporary residency visas, which they (the Italians) believe should allow them to travel anywhere within the Schengen area. But the other European nations, especially France, do not agree.

    The European Commission seems to be siding with France so far, generally speaking.

  4. What’s stopping these governments from shooting these people?
    I think they would quit coming if they knew they were going to get shot.

    I would like to use this on our southern border too.

  5. Italy has a very long coastline. Hence, Italy should have an adequate navy in operation at all times, whether they currently perceive a threat or not.

    Fact is, whenever any country doesn’t consider that they are under any current threats, and then uses that as an excuse to spend very little on defense, then one or more other countries will take advantage of their slothfulness and failure of vigilance.

    If Italy DOES have a navy, it’s high time they go out there and sink all enemy watercraft as far from their own shores as they possibly can.

Comments are closed.