Camp of the Saints: Landing in Sicily

Camp of the Saints Chart

The news stories below all seem to refer to the same incident, in which a single fishing boat (either 20 or 25 meters long, depending on which article you read) landed at Pozzallo, on the southern tip of Sicily near Ragusa. The boat was said to be unbelievably overloaded with 960 people (also reported as 963, 932, or 917), including women and children. Since our last overall total was 38,000, this brings us to 38,960, and the Cultural Enrichment Thermometer above has been updated accordingly.

The earliest reports estimated that there were 400 people on the boat, the maximum possible number that the Italian coast guard believed could be carried on a craft of that size:

Close to 400 Migrants Escorted to Sicily’s Pozzallo Port

(AGI) Ragusa — Some 400 migrants, including an estimated 50 women and children, are to land in Pozzallo. The fishing boat ferrying them to Italian shores was spotted this afternoon by the Italian coast guard, who are currently escorting them to the port of Pozzallo. The party will undergo ID checks and will be hosted at temporary holding facilities.

But the authorities failed to reckon on the ingenuity and determination of the culture-enrichers on the boat — or were they of less than average stature? In any case, there were more than twice as many of them as expected. They had traveled from Libya, and originated in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of them were in such bad shape that they had to be hospitalized:

Over 900 Immigrants Land at Pozzallo, 150 Women & Children

(AGI) Ragusa — The Customs & Excise officers that received them in Pozzallo during the night could not believe their eyes.

Packed on the 20-meter fishing boat were many more than the 400 migrants estimated at first: sources of the Guardia di Finanza report that according to a first head-count, which is not final yet, the boat was carrying 917 persons, including 150 women and children. About 50 of them were taken to a hospital. The refugees affirmed that they sailed from Libya four days ago and that they come from Sub-Saharan Africa.

An article in the Maltese press reported that the migrants were escorted into Sicily by a Maltese patrol boat. Italy and Malta typically do their best to make sure that each boatload of refugees lands in the other country:

Here! You take them!

No — we couldn’t begrudge you all that cultural enrichment. They’re yours.

Ah, but we insist! We would not presume to hog all the bounty for ourselves.

No, no, no — we wouldn’t dream of… etc. etc.

The Maltese managed to avoid taking on this particular boatload, under the pretext that the craft was not in distress:

963 Migrants Arrive in Sicily – Claim Their Boat Was Accompanied by Maltese Patrol Boat for Part of the Way

A fishing boat packed with more than 963 immigrants has arrived in southern Italy, with the Italian media reporting that according to the migrants, the boat was accompanied for part of the way North by a Maltese patrol boat.

The Maltese government confirmed the presence of the patrol boat but said the migrants’ boat was not in distress and could proceed northward normally.

The 25-metre fishing boat carried entire families of migrants from sub-Sahara, with many of them, including children, needing hospital treatment after a difficult journey from Libya. The boat was escorted by Italian vessels to Pozzallo.

The migrants said they were at sea for four days. At one time, their boat was intercepted by a Maltese patrol boat. Maltese soldiers handed them life vests and directed the boat northward, Italian media reported, saying this episode risked sparking another incident between Italy and Malta.

Malta Confirms Presence of Patrol Boat

The government in a statement said that Malta was first alerted to the presence of the migrants’ boat by an Egyptian fishing boat early on Sunday morning.

A patrol boat and a patrol aircraft were sent to the scene. One of the migrants on the boat subsequently contacted a migrant in Italy, who in turn alerted the Rome rescue authorities.

By the time Rome had informed Malta, Malta had already dispatched the patrol boat to investigate.


Meanwhile, an Italian NGO yesterday took Malta to the International Criminal Court, claiming that Malta should have rescued migrants located on a boat 50 miles off the Italian Island of Lampedusa over the weekend.

Malta denied the claims, saying responsibility rested on the Italian authorities since Lampedusa was far closer to the boat than Malta, and rescue by Italian assets was therefore easier. Malta, however, coordinated the rescue.

Eventually the Italian authorities arrested nine North Africans for smuggling in the migrants:

Nine Suspected People Smugglers Arrested After 932 Migrants Land

Ragusa, 1 June (Adnkronos) — Italian police have arrested four Egyptian, three Algerians, a Moroccan and a Tunisian suspected of people smuggling. The arrests came after 932 illegal immigrants landed on Tuesday on the southern Sicilian coast.

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.

A reminder that Italy is only permitted to repatriate 60 Tunisian immigrants per day — that is, 1/16th of the number of that particular day’s arrivals. And this would only be allowed if the enrichers had embarked from Tunisia, rather than Libya, there being no agreement in place to repatriate Libyan arrivals:

Italy in March signed a deal with Tunisia under which up to 60 illegal Tunisian immigrants can be deported each day.

In a seemingly unrelated case, 25 Egyptian illegals were repatriated:

Rome, 30 May (AKI) — Twenty-five Egyptian illegal immigrants were deported on a flight from the Sicilian city of Catania to Cairo, Italy’s interior ministry said.

Most of the migrants had arrived last week on Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa by boat from Libya, according to the ministry.

The migrants had claimed to be Iranian and minors under 18 years of age, but officials managed to establish that they were in fact Egyptian adults.

The interior ministry said. 412 Egyptian illegal immigrants have been repatriated from Italy since January.

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.

Note that only 412 Egyptian illegals have been sent back since January — in other words, just over 1% of the total number of migrants that have arrived in Italy during the same period.

While all this has been going on, Members of the European Parliament are shocked — shocked, I tell you! — to discover that the European Commission wants to treat asylum seekers (that is, illegal immigrants) by the same rules as EU citizens when it comes to welfare:

A group of MEPs have declared themselves “astonished” that the European Commission has revived a proposal to allow asylum seekers the same social welfare assistance as own nationals.

The suggestion is just one of series of modifications proposed by the commission today in an effort to make its Common Asylum Policy faster, more efficient and fairer.

The centre-right European People’s Party, the largest group of MEPs in the European Parliament, said in a statement that they noted the development with “astonishment” and that the idea had previously been “clearly rejected by both parliament and Council”.

Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said asylum was one of her “top priorities,” adding that the treatment of asylum seekers currently varies greatly between EU member states. “The standards we agree at the European level should be simple, clear, and cost-efficient. The EU must stand up for its values and provide protection for those coming here to seek refuge from persecution and conflict.

“Today’s proposals offer high level standards for people genuinely in need of protection, and will help to reduce unnecessary burdens on national authorities. They will also contribute to building more trust between the member states,” she said.

But Simon Busuttil, an EPP MEP, said changes were needed before an agreement could be reached. “The new rules should be more realistic and easier to follow than the previous ones. The EU has been lacking an effective asylum system for far too long, it is time to get this fixed,” he said. His colleague Monika Hohlmeier MEP added that “there will be difficult negotiations ahead of us”.

The policy has been the subject of years of debate and negotiations between the EU’s institutions. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats today insisted that member states should not use political unrest in North Africa – and the subsequent influx of migrants to southern Europe – as a pretext for further delaying the adoption of the new proposals. Nadja Hirsch MEP said: “The parliament will not back down on its requirements for a common approach in receiving and handling migrants in a dignified, fair and efficient way. Now time is ticking and the ball is clearly in the council’s camp with no more time to waste.”

Fellow ALDE member Renate Weber said the council no longer had any excuse to delay. “The proposals keep the financial and administrative burden at low levels and minimise any abuse of the asylum system. Parliament’s position has already been adopted,” she said.

The proposals will be discussed at the justice and home affairs council on June 9 and will require the support of the parliament and member states before they become law. The system is expected to be in place by 2012.

I don’t know about you, but that’s about all the cultural enrichment I can take for one night. I’m sure there will be plenty more tomorrow.

Hat tips: AC, C. Cantoni, and Steen.

4 thoughts on “Camp of the Saints: Landing in Sicily

  1. I saw in some report or other (whose numbers largely agree with GoV0 that they estimate about ten percent have drowned. I’ll bet it’s higher than that…

  2. If they’re Muslim they should immediately be sent to Saudi Arabia.
    Let the rich Sheikhs take care of their poor, uneducated Muslim brethren on their dime.

  3. With regard to the black composition of these boat people, which seems to constitute the majority of them, it just occurred to me to put two and two together, apropos of my latest blog essay on a black female Cameroonian-French writer and activist, Calixthe Beyala, who in a 2006 interview I translated said things like:

    We are often told that Africa was destroyed by the Western slave trade and Western Colonialism. The truth is that black Africans had already been brought to their knees by the Arabs between the 7th and 16th centuries! … the slave trade which had brought ruin for six centuries was first and foremost the Arab slave trade, which has never been forcefully condemned.

    Unfortunately, Arabs continue [to this day] the slave trade and colonization [of blacks] in Sudan, in Saudi Arabia and in Mauritania.

    The massacres and invasions by Arabs were extremely destructive. Arab slavery was the beginning of the real decline of black culture and civilization… The Arab slave trade is passed over in silence, but it should be brought to the light of history…

    And it continues to this day: In Mauritania — and in Sudan, a thousand black officers were slaughtered.

    In Arab lands, black people suffer from a dreadful racism, but this issue is taboo. In the past as in the present, there is a policy of “ethnic cleansing” of blacks by Arabs.

    * * *

    I.e., non-Muslim black Africans may be trying to take advantage of the current interim disarray of Muslim governments unravelling in order to try to escape from the Muslims (both Arab and fellow Black) who continue to make their lives hell.

    If my theory is correct, what a boon this would be for the anti-Islam movement, if a few enterprising journalists were to interview sufficient numbers of these blacks and get quotes from them saying, without a doubt, that they are escaping “Arab racism against blacks”.

  4. cornholio said… “If they’re Muslim they should immediately be sent to Saudi Arabia. Let the rich Sheikhs take care of their poor, uneducated Muslim brethren on their dime.”

    If the Sheikhs were doing that there, they wouldn’t be coming here.

    Problem from a striclty humanitarian perspective is that we know the Sheikhs won’t take care of them should we send them back.

    The Shiekhs would probably just let them die. So better for the Shiekhs to send them all over here to cause havok amongst us.

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