Rome—About 700 African migrants are believed drowned off the coast of Sicily overnight as the massive flow of refugees who transit an out-of-control Libya continues non-stop. And the response of the European Union, so militant in getting countries to pay their bank bills, has been inept.
First, the migrants. They come from all over sub-Saharan Africa: Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, Mali. There are also Syrian and Egyptian migrants trying to reach Europe,
They all are taking advantage, if it can be called that, of the anarchy in Libya, where two separate governments are fighting for power. Emigration problems are least on their minds. The illegal traffic is in the hands of multiple militias that shepherd the travelers through the country and stuff them on overcrowded rafts and boats. the cost: at least $2000 a head.
Italy is being overwhelmed and domestic protest is rising against the migrant tide. Fifteen thousand have arrived by boat since January. The European Union’s border control agency (Frontex) took over coastal patrols and air surveillance from Italy last year, but provided less funding and fewer ships for rescue the operations. The EU also kept the ships close to the Italian shore rather than Libya, where refugee boats could be turned back or rescue take place before the boats ventured further to sea.
Europe doesn’t know what it wants to do or how to do it. Welcome the migrants under some sort of temporary or permanent program? Turn the boats back with a blockade of Libya? For a while, given the threat that Islamic State terrorists might infiltrate by sea, there was talk of a peace-enforcing military venture in Libya to sustain a single government.
With the calmer Mediterranean Sea summer months ahead, the only sure thing is that the exodus will continue.
Here’s a critique from Amnesty International.
It was all predictable.
Al-Jazeera looks at militias and migrants.
For those who read Italian, the political fallout in Rome.