The temperature registered by the Cultural Enrichment Thermometer in the above graphic just made a sudden leap over 44,000. This isn’t the result of a massive new wave of arrivals in Lampedusa, but rather because the Italian government has just released a new official year-to-date number of North African refugees as of the end of May.
According to Migrants at Sea :
42,000 Migrant Landings in Italy in First 5 Months of 2011
Italian officials report that 42,807 migrants landed in Italy during the first five months of 2011. The arrivals involved 507 separate landings. This number contrasts with 4,406 arrivals in all of 2010 involving 159 separate landings.
Most of the migrants in 2011 have been Tunisian nationals (24,356) whereas Afghans (1699) were the largest group in 2010. Most migrants crossed the Adriatic in 2010 whereas the central Mediterranean is now the location of most migrant voyages.
As mentioned in previous posts, my numbers have always been conservative estimates, due to a lack of official figures for any specific date. Now, however, I can recalibrate my figures.
As of May 31 I had listed just under 39,000, so I was off by about 3,800. Since my total last Saturday was 40,600, that means the number should now be adjusted to roughly 44,400. This will serve as a new baseline, and if I’m assiduous in collecting reports of new arrivals, the ongoing figures will continue to be reliable.
The only boatload of culture-enrichers to appear in the latest news stories contained Egyptian migrants on their way to Italy. The would-be immigrants were intercepted off Crete — by an Icelandic patrol vessel, of all things:
EU Marine Intercepts Migrants Off Crete
ATHENS – An EU marine patrol on Saturday intercepted around 100 migrants near the Greek island of Crete as they attempted to sail from Egypt to Italy, the Greek coastguard said.
“A distress signal was initially sent to the Italian authorities in Rome,” a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP.
“There was an initial search near Malta until an Icelandic patrol vessel from (EU border agency) Frontex found them near Crete,” she said.
The sailboat was located some 85 nautical miles (100 miles) from the town of Paleohora in southern Crete.
The migrants claim there are 95 people on board but the cause of the distress call was not immediately clear, and their nationalities are also unknown at this point, the spokeswoman said.
“We know the group includes mostly men but that there are also women and children,” she added.
“They are now in the process of transferring onto the Frontex vessel, and authorities have not yet decided where they will be taken for health tests,” the officer said.
The rest of tonight’s articles are background stories and accounts of intra-EU political wrangling. First, the Financial Times reports on the damage done to Lampedusa’s tourism industry by all this cultural enrichment:
Italy’s Refugee Island Left in Crisis
Silvio Berlusconi came, promised a golf course and casino, and left. African migrants still arrive from Libya aboard leaky fishing boats. And the islanders of Lampedusa are left feeling more desperate than ever.
Italy’s southernmost speck of land, closer to Tunisia than Sicily, should be packed at this time of year with tourists and nesting turtles enjoying its pristine beaches. Instead the island and its hotels are virtually deserted – except for coastguards, police and aid workers awaiting the next break in the weather that will bring in a fresh influx of fugitives from north Africa.
“Tourism is zero,” complains Maria Sanguedolce, surveying the empty tables of her seafront restaurant next to a graveyard of crippled Libyan and Tunisian vessels waiting to be scrapped. Stray dogs wander by. “I am fed up with Berlusconi’s promises. And damn the media,” she adds. Accusations of broken promises are a sore point with the prime minister’s centre-right government, still reeling from disastrous losses in local elections last month.
As if Ms Sanguedolce’s words were heard in Rome, the cabinet issued a terse statement on Thursday, promising to maintain its “commitments” to Lampedusa and handing the file to Stefania Prestigiacomo, the environment minister.
Lampedusa, 20 sq km of mostly barren rock and maquis, became a gateway to Europe this year, drawing more than 23,000 job-seeking Tunisians in the space of six weeks. This was followed by an outpouring of African migrants from Libya, their departure organised by the Tripoli regime. Hundreds have perished on the way.
Aid agencies and Lampedusa’s few thousand inhabitants – who depend on tourism for 80 per cent of the island’s economy – blame the government for the disastrous handling of a sudden crisis.
For nearly two months more than 6,000 Tunisians were in effect abandoned on the island, left to roam its villages and cliffs, scavenging and sleeping in the open. Rome’s intention was to send images back to Tunisia to deter further arrivals and to impress upon Brussels the need for collective European Union intervention.
The plan backfired, forcing Mr Berlusconi to fly there in late March, when he said he would buy a villa. He also pledged a golf course and casino and to move the migrants to processing centres on Sicily and the mainland.
The authorities and the UN refugee agency have streamlined the process of moving out most migrants by ship within a day or so of arrival. But media images of the chaos are now so ingrained that most Italian and foreign tourists remain convinced that Lampedusa is a place to be avoided.
With no source of fresh water, the island is barely able to support a few trees, let alone a thirsty golf course. Bernadino de Rubeis, Lampedusa mayor, hails from Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Liberty party but he is fuming at the inadequacy of the government’s response, calling the golf course idea “not serious”.
“He should keep faith in his promises of economic help. We live on tourism. A lot of places are closing. The season is lost,” he told the Financial Times. He singled out the promotions organised by Michela Brambilla, the tourism minister who worked in Mr Berlusconi’s media empire, as “totally useless”.
“We are tired. We need answers, not television commercials and speeches,” he said.
For the mayor, the answer is to make Lampedusa a real entry point for Europe by setting up a free-trade zone.
“We are the frontier,” he points out. But for the moment there is almost no trade at all.
If you want your heartstrings tugged from the other direction, read “Life for Refugees in Rome”, which is too long to include here.
Ireland has gallantly stepped forward to help with the culture-enrichers held on Malta, and is willing to claim its share — all ten of them:
Ireland: Shatter Offers Refuge to Libyans
IRELAND has offered to take between six and 10 Libyan refugees in response to a request from the Maltese government and the EU.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he told the Maltese the country would be happy to take a large family of up to 10 people.
They would be offered refugee status with full residency if they remained here long enough.
Malta, with a population of less than 500,000, has received many hundreds of refugees fleeing the war in Libya, many of them from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.
OK, that’s ten down, and 1,500 to go. Maybe the United States can absorb the rest of them.
The final article is from The Globe and Mail, and provides a detailed report on the efforts by France and other European countries to close their borders against the “Arab Spring” waiting to be sprung from Italy:
France and Italy, fearful of tens of thousands more people like Mr. Guetari if the Libyan war ends, Syria alls and other countries erupt, have opened a deep fissure in Europe’s tradition of border-free movement and continent-wide citizenship – a fissure that is expanding to other countries and may signal the end of a long-held convention.
It began in April when Italy, having received at least 20,000 Tunisian migrants on the remote island of Lampedusa (an estimated 2,000 have died trying to get there), abandoned efforts to repatriate them and gave them permission to stay – and, implicitly, to leave Italy for France. That led to a confrontation between France and Italy, and France’s decision to post police at long-abandoned crossings.
France’s efforts to stop job-seeking North Africans, some 40,000 of whom have arrived in Europe since the Arab revolutions began in January, have only been partly successful. But they have left crowds of paperless migrants lingering in Italy, and forced places such as Ventimiglia to rediscover the old realities of being a border town.
And it has provoked a political crisis. Free movement between countries, long a foundation of Europe’s postwar peace, is suddenly facing its most serious challenges in a quarter-century. After the decision by France and Italy last month to temporarily suspend the Schengen Treaty – the 25-country pact, dating back to 1995, that eliminates all borders and passport requirements between member countries – the European Parliament will hold a debate later this month on whether to make it easier for countries to suspend Schengen and impose temporary controls.
Denmark this week introduced customs agents on its borders with Germany and Sweden. They are allowed to inspect cars and boat passengers for illegal goods – a demand of the far-right Danish People’s Party, a member of the governing coalition. That move, strictly illegal under Schengen, drew a furious response from Germany, one of the treaty’s most ardent defenders.
Likewise, in Switzerland this week the Schengen Treaty came under fire from right-wing parties in the legislature. And an effort to add Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen Zone – after both EU countries beefed up their border security – was passed in the European Parliament this week but then vetoed by the leaders of EU countries wary of corruption in southeast Europe.
Here on the edge of Italy, that means that places like Ventimiglia are once again learning, after almost two decades of peace, to become frontier towns – with all the smuggling, the heavy police presence, and the lost souls that that implies.
“We really were not prepared to deal with this, and it has been a lot of work,” says Fiamma Cogliolo of the town’s Red Cross, which fed and housed more than 1,300 Tunisians until the shelter was shut down. “We had to learn a different way of operating.”
That may prove true across the continent.
The article downplays the current crisis, saying that the numbers are comparatively small, and are dwarfed, for example, by the flood of refugees from the civil wars in the Balkans during the 1990s.
However, one should not overlook the difference between the two sets of refugees: the Balkan migrants consisted of people who were mostly literate, and many possessed actual job skills. More importantly, they were, well, European, and not low-skilled, low-IQ, mostly Muslim Third Worlders from Africa and the Middle East.
But we’re not supposed to talk about such things.
Nevertheless, that’s what makes this wave “The Camp of the Saints”. And it’s not over — it may yet break into six figures before the end of this year, depending on the tenacity of Col. Qaddafi deep in his Tripolitanian bunker.
For previous posts about the Mediterranean refugee crisis, see The Camp of the Saints Archive.
Hat tips: AC and Insubria.