This past weekend, a woefully overloaded rescue ship operated by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières made its way across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe, looking for a safe port in Italy. Many of the 629 migrants on board of the ship, all of which were fleeing the horrors of war in Syria and Libya and the exploitation that displaced individuals often endure in Africa.
Among the 629 passengers are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 kids who made the crossing with family members and seven pregnant women. Some of the ship's passengers are said to be injured from beatings and torture endured in the home countries. By Sunday, there were only enough provisions to feed those on board for another 48 hours. Italy's response to the vessel's request to dock in the country?
Nah, fuck those guys.
According to the Globe and Mail, Italy's newly elected populist government acted in a manner that may be familiar to those under the yoke of a populist government here in North America. In a xenophobic fervor, instead of rendering aid or shelter to a group of people who were in woeful need of it, they turned them away. Matteo Salvini, the governing party's deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, gave the order to keep the boat-borne individuals from stepping foot on his country's shores.
From the Globe & Mail:
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and the Libyan civil war three years later, Italy has absorbed more than 600,000 undocumented or illegal migrants, most of whom arrived by sea from North Africa. Many thousands of them drowned en route. The arrivals, however, fell sharply last year.
Mr. Salvini and leaders of the previous government complained that the European Union was casting Italy adrift by doing little to ease Italy's migrant burden. The migrants were bottled in Italy when northern neighbors, including France and Switzerland, closed their borders to new arrivals. Political analysts said the rise of the populist movement in Italy was partly fueled by the surge of migrant arrivals in Italy and their lack of resettlement elsewhere in the EU.
What's fun about this is that many of the people on the boat were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard, off the shores of Libya. With a policy to keep migrants from safe harbor, they may as well have left them in the water. Justifying this, Salivini said "Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not." In an effort to keep his country from looking like a rotten, but stylish, festival of turds, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reached out to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, asking if his wee nation would be willing to talk the ship and its people ashore. There was no Muscat love: he argued that the nation was under no obligation to accept them.
Happily, Spain isn't currently being run by a whack of xenophobic garbage. The country's new president, Pedro Sanchez, informed MSF that his country would be pleased to welcome the migrants and see to their care, stating, "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer 'safe harbour' to these people in accordance with international law."
So yeah, if you're planning a European getaway this year, remember this story and spend your vacation dollars accordingly.
There's a chance, given its provisioning and a growing concern that the ship might not have enough fuel to make the journey, that the migrants could once again find themselves adrift before being able to reach Spain. We'll keep an eye on this one to see how it plays out.
Image via Pixabay