Since my last “Camp of the Saints” post four or five days ago, more than 1,600 North African refugees have landed in Italy, most of them on the island of Lampedusa. My previous estimate of the total flow since January was 36,000 to 38,000, based on collected data from news stories, with official Italian reports supplying a fair amount of corroboration.
The latest additions would place the new total at 37,600 to 39,600. To make tallying easier, I’ll estimate the current total at 38,000, and use that as my baseline for future revisions. That’s the total represented on the Cultural Enrichment Thermometer in the above graphic, which will be updated periodically as the temperature continues to rise in Southern Europe.
We’ll begin tonight’s report with some of the immigration-related antics of the European Commission. It’s the usual dithering and dancing, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.
First, a brief summary from AGI:
European Commission Issues N. Africa Migration Package
(AGI) Brussels — The European Commission has approved a new set of measures addressing migratory flows from North Africa. The package looks to establish greater solidarity and cooperation in respect of Members most affected by migrant inflow.
So the member states of the European Union will cope with the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two by… establishing greater solidarity and cooperation.
Yup, that’ll take care of it, all right. I love these nice, concrete, detailed plans of action.
ANSAmed has more. Notice the breathtaking scope of the EU’s ambitions: it will “prevent emergencies”. They like to think big, don’t they?
Pay close attention to the proposed preventive methods:
EU Launches Proposals to Prevent Emergencies
(ANSAmed) — Brussels, May 25 — The EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, has laid down proposals aimed at “leaving the immigration emergency behind us”, by launching dialogue with North African countries, beginning with Tunisia and Egypt, designed to bring about “tailor made” agreements, facilitating entry into the EU for students, researchers and entrepreneurs. The proposals are geared towards tackling illegal immigration, by channeling migrants into regular flows that might allow Europe to continue supplying itself with the workforce that is fundamental for a continent suffering an inexorable ageing process.
So they’re going to prevent immigration emergencies by “launching dialogue with North African countries”.
You’ll also notice that Ms. Malmström is straightforward about the fact that Europe will urgently need these migrants to take care of aged Europeans, who have neglected to produce enough children to do the job.
Preventive measures will include adjustments to the issuing of visas:
Included in the package is the adoption of a protective clause to reintroduce rapidly the use of visas in Europe “in case of unexpected increases in the influx” of migrants from countries where visas have been liberalised, such as the Western Balkans. Common policy regarding asylum is also up for review.
Brussels believes that the package, which follows an announcement made on May 4, is aimed at “best managing the flow of migrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean” and “ensuring that the current visa regulations do not allow irregularities”. The Commission says that “solidarity among the member states most exposed “to migratory pressure remains “absolutely crucial”.
So dialogue, visas, “solidarity”, and “not allowing irregularities” are the chosen instruments of coping with the migration crisis. Furthermore, there will even be “structured cooperation”. Ha! That’ll show those illegals!
“What I am proposing today goes beyond urgency,” Malmstrom said. “Our plan is to develop a more structured cooperation with North African countries. It is in the interests of both the EU and of countries in North Africa to promote mobility and well managed migration”. “Europe will be increasingly dependent on migrant workers. North Africa’s potential should be used to the benefit of both sides,” the Commissioner continued.
There’s even a “protective clause”, though it’s not clear who is being protected from what:
Malmstrom’s package includes the launch of a “protective clause” as part of the current European visa policy. The change will very quickly open to review the list of countries whose citizens need visas to enter the European Union.
And the following paragraph is absolutely incoherent, at least to anyone outside the labyrinthine recesses of the Brussels bureaucracy:
With the process of inclusion and exclusion from the list currently lasting years, the clause aims to cut review times in order to “prevent irregularities” and tackle “all potential negative consequences of the liberalisation of visas”. The hope is that external borders can be rapidly strengthened “in exceptional and well determined cases”, in the light of “unpredictable and unexpected” migratory flows.
While the Nabobs of Neighborliness were nattering in Brussels, the culture-enrichers were arriving on Europe’s southern shores. This group landed at an unusual location, Sardinia:
Ten Immigrants Aboard Fishing Boat Land in South Sardinia
(AGI) Cagliari — Ten immigrants from the Maghreb landed this morning on the south-west coast of Sardinia. They were aboard a 15 meter fishing boat which ran ashore near Cape Teulada. The immigrants, who claim to come from Libya, reached the shore near the mouth of the “Zafferaneddu” and were blocked and detained by the Carabinieri. In the meantime, the Sant’Antioco Port Authority is attempting to recover the fishing boat.
Another anomaly: a small group from Morocco tried to sneak into Spain:
Boatload of African Migrants Caught Off Almería Coast
A MOTORBOAT heading from Morocco carrying 40 would-be migrants attempting to enter Spain via the ‘back door’ has been intercepted near Punta Sabinar (Almería). The coastguard service detected the boat at around 22 miles south of the shore. They say there were seven women and two children amongst the passengers, but that all appeared to be in a good state of health. All passengers have been taken to Motril (Granada) where they are receiving first aid, food, water and clean, dry clothes from rescuers. Coastguard officials set out to the scene by air and sea after being alerted of a boat leaving a northern port in Morocco. It is not known what nationality the passengers are, since they may have travelled to Morocco from countries further south.
A third unusual arrival involved a group of Egyptians landing at Ugento, at the southern end of the heel of the Italian boot:
36 Egyptians Land in Salento
(AGI) Ugento — Thirty six Egyptian immigrants, 29 of whom underage, landed in Ugento, southern Italy, on Friday night.
The illegal immigrants, the youngest being only 11 years old, were found overnight and taken to the ‘Don Tonino Bello’ reception centre in Otranto, where they were given assistance.
No trace of the smugglers.
This group is part of the 1,600 that landed on Lampedusa in less than two days:
341 Rescued Migrants Land at Lampedusa
(AGI) Lampedusa — A new maxi landing at Lampedusa. According to the Coast Guard, 341 migrants landed at 5:30 today. Last afternoon, they were located some 60 miles offshore the Sicilian coast, on a boat in serious distress. Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza vessels went to the rescue, saving the latest contingent of sub-Saharan migrants crossing from Libya.
After a 10-day truce, in a few hours, yesterday, over 850 migrants have reached the Italian soil. A few hundreds were crossing on two old wrecks ready to sink. 55 landed on their own at Pantelleria.
Then came 400 more:
Another 400 Migrants Land at Lampedusa
(AGI) Lampedusa — A boat with 400 migrants on board was rescued around four miles from Lampedusa. The coast guard and finance police conducted the transfer of passengers to their boats.
Some of the migrants have already landed at Favaloro harbour, while others are still on their way. The passengers of the unseaworthy vessel had to be rescued because its rudder was jammed. Three hundred and forty one had already landed by dawn.
The final report on the latest arrivals in Lampedusa:
Lampedusa Party 1600 New Arrivals in Just 36 Hours
(AGI) Lampedusa — Another landing took place just prior to 1700 hours in Lampedusa, with the arrival of 138 migrants. The latter add to the day’s total of 950. During the last 36 hours a total of 1,600 North African migrants have landed on the southern Italian island. The fresh arrivals have boarded ferry boat “Flaminia” towards mainland destinations.
All this cultural enrichment filled the temporary facilities in Lampedusa beyond their carrying capacity:
1,800 Packed Onto Lampedusa
(AGI) Lampedusa – After the landing of the latest 609 refugees today in Lampedusa, there are 1,800 immigrants on the island.
Among these are 41 women and 9 children. 1,450 of the immigrants have arrived between yesterday and today. The ferryboat “Flaminia” is on the site, equipped for the transfers. The Prefecture has already made arrangements for the embarcation of the majority of the refugees, in order to reduce the numbers in the refugee center, which is already over its maximum capacity. The immigrants will be separated for those requesting asylum in the country.
A reminder of the dangers of the crossing: 1,400 migrants — or about 3.5% of the those who have left North Africa since January — have died attempting to get to Italy. It tells you how badly they want to get out of the hellholes they came from:
More Than 1:400 Perish Trying to Reach Italian Shores
Lampedusa, 25 May (AKI) – More than 1,400 migrants have died this year while trying to reach Italian shores from North Africa, according Fortress Europe, an Italian blog that tracks the deaths through media reports. The figures were widely reported by the Italian press.
Through 23 May 1,403 people reportedly perished in the Strait of Sicily aboard boats sailing toward the island of Lampedusa – which is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland – while 1,510 have lost their lives in transit to Europe in the entire Mediterranean, the site said.
Over 30,000 people have come ashore aboard ships that had set sail mostly from Tunisia and Libya, where patrols were interrupted amid popular uprisings and civil war in the Middle East.
The trip can turn fatal when rickety vessels break up or drift for days upon weeks while transporting hundreds of would-be illegal immigrants.
Italian police last week rescued about 500 migrants from Libya after a small fire broke out on their boat close to the Italian coast.
More migrant lives have been lost during the first five months of this year than in all of 2008, the year before Italian law permitted forced repatriation, according to Fortress Europe.
Finally, a look at a slightly different aspect of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. The current crisis is centered on the passage from Tunisia and Libya to Malta and Italy, but that is only a part of the larger picture. The migrant crisis at the Greek-Turkish border long predated the Arab Spring, and has been steadily worsening while the enrichers have been flooding into Italy.
This report looks at the enrichment crisis from both sides of the border between Greece and Turkey:
Trouble Never Ends at Greek-Turkish Border
26 May 2011 Le Monde Paris
Illegal migration into Greece has slowed at the crossing near the Turkish city of Edirne since the Frontex mission, charged by the European Union to monitor its borders, deployed there for four months. But while this gap in the Schengen Zone may be partially plugged, the problem has simply been displaced. A report.
Each night, vans coming from Istanbul discreetly release dozens of migrants at the border between Turkey and Greece. The region, which spreads out along the banks of the Meriç River [or Evros River in Greek], remains one of the main illegal access points into Europe. Using small boats, buoys or simple ropes drawn between the two river banks, men, women and children cross through the powerful current of this body of water that serves as a demarcation line.
On Tuesday, May 24, the European Commission presented a proposal for restrictive measures to stem growing criticism from those States most exposed to illegal migration. In 2010, the flow of illegals to the border already caused “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” according to Apostolos Veizis head of Greece’s Doctors without Borders team.
The migrants poured through a well-known gap to the south of the Turkish city of Edirne. Here, exists a patch of land border 12 kilometres long, easy to cross, through the fields, at night. Nearly 50,000 people were arrested in Greece in 2010 after having illegally used this access into the Schengen Free Circulation Zone, today decried throughout Europe. Thousands of others got through without getting caught.
62 people died trying to cross the river
“It’s a boulevard, that access must be closed down,” argues Georgios Salamagas, head of the police force at Orestiada, a small Greek border town. The Greek government has asserted its determination to build an anti-immigrant wall to plug those 12 km. The agency charged by the European Union to manage its border, Frontex, reacted in November by deploying 175 police officers from the 27 EU countries to the Edirne/Orestiada region.
The mission, which ended in March, had an immediate dissuasive effect. Arrests along this sensitive portion of border fell by 44%, Frontex reported. But the Orestiada police still intercepts a thousand migrants each month. More importantly, this highly-targeted operation displaced the problem further to the south. “Of course, the networks for human trafficking adapt quickly,” confirms Grigorios Apostolou, head of the Frontex team, which has opened a permanent office in Athens.
The border stretches along the Meriç River and the coast of the Aegean Sea. In 2010, at least 62 people died trying to cross the river. The bodies are rarely claimed and are buried in the village of Sidero, a Greek hamlet near the border, in a lot surrounded by wire mesh which serves as a cemetery for migrants.
“They beat us, we are treated like animals”
On the Turkish side, there is no indication of either a fall in attempts to cross the border illegally or of an improvement in the treatment of migrants. In the south, the army, which controls the border, reinforced its patrols. At the Pazarkule customs station, soldiers search the surrounding area using heat-sensitive cameras. “We caught 25 Algerians tonight,” says the garrison commander.
Once arrested, the migrants are sent to one of the region’s retention centres. The Edirne camp agreed to open its doors to a group led by MEP Hélène Flautre, chair of the EU-Turkey committee. Before the visit, the retention centre was emptied of two-thirds of its occupants and cleaned from top to bottom.
In this decrepit building, the travellers who land here are crowded together without any respect for regulations. Fourteen year-old Afghanis are locked up with adults. Retention time is set arbitrarily. One Tunisian man who tried to reach France explains that he’s been locked up for four months. He’s in the company of Moroccans, Burmese and Nigerians. “They beat us, we are treated like animals,” complains Mohammed, an Algerian. The cell is suddenly filled with a man’s shouting, a deserter from the Russian army suffering from psychiatric problems. “Don’t worry, he’ll soon be sent home,” the centre’s director says.
Greek-Turkish border remains porous
At the Soufli camp, on the Greek side, the situation is even worse. Fifty people are crowded into a cell of 50 square metres. No outings are allowed. “Three weeks ago, there were 115 of us, it’s inhuman,” says Yusuf, a young Christian Iraqi. “Some people are sleeping in the toilet and this cupboard,” he says, pointing to the cupboard. A single shower is operational. Two Iranians, who fled during the 2009 protests, are on a hunger strike. A Nigerian suffers from diabetes.
Asylum seekers are held for at least six months before their case is eventually examined, and, in most cases rejected. Yusuf isn’t even thinking of asking for asylum in Greece. “I fled Iraq in 2004, crossed Europe and made a request for asylum in Sweden. But they sent me back to Baghdad in 2009 saying the war was over,” he says.
Frontex continues to operate in the area. But the Greek-Turkish border remains porous and hard to control with its dozens of islands easily accessible by boat and because the illegal migrants trying to exploit those gaps are always more numerous. The flow towards Greece, seen as highly sensitive since 2008 when a record 150,000 arrests were made, is explained by increased surveillance along the Italian and Spanish coasts, Euro MP Hélène Flautre notes. The Greek route is used by 90% of illegal migrants.
Translated from the French by Patricia Brett
That’s the latest temperature reading from the Mediterranean. It’s still fairly cool, but rising fast.
Hat tips: C. Cantoni, Fjordman, and Insubria.