The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: Migration - Politicians must find a solution

Wednesday, 15 March 2023, 12:32 Last update: about 2 years ago

In the past days Italian media reported that, from intelligence gathered, there are some 680,000 migrants waiting in Libya for a chance to cross over with hopes of reaching Europe.

A representative of the United Nations has downplayed the number, saying that it is not credible.

Many of these migrants, Tommaso Foti, a member of the Prime Minister’s Brothers of Italy Party, are in detention camps, eager to sail across the central Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats.


While the intelligence services assessment sparked alarming headlines in Italy, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration cautioned that the figure appeared to be confusing the high end of the estimated number of migrants in Libya with those who were actually seeking to head from there to Europe, the Associated Press reported.

This piece of information came in the wake of another tragedy involving migrants. Seventy-nine migrants have died in a shipwreck just off the coast of the Calabria town of Cutro. A wooden boat that had left from Turkey ran into a sandbank in rough seas. Some of the victims were children, who drowned as they sought to reach the shore.

In another incident reported in the last days, some 30 migrants were missing while another 17 were rescued about 100 nautical miles from Libya’s coast after their boat overturned while a commercial vessel was trying to take them on board.

From the start of this year until March 10, some 17,600 migrants arrived in Italy. That's about three times the number for the same time period in each of the two previous years, although the COVID-19 pandemic might have led to fewer voyages.

And we’re still in the winter-time, when the weather conditions are not ideal for any crossings to be planned. It makes one wonder what’s going to happen when spring and summer arrive.

The migration issue has been with us for decades now, and yet Europe continues to fail to take the appropriate decisions to tackle the situation. Governments and Prime Ministers have changed, European Commission members have moved on to be replaced by others, and still the EU grapples with the same problem.

The southern European states have sought help from the countries in the northern part of the bloc, who in turn say that they have enough migration issues to deal with as thousands try to make their way into Europe via land from the east. The war in Ukraine has meant that millions were displaced from the homes and tried to escape to safer ground.

All countries seek the support of others in dealing with migration. The idea of burden sharing has been floated several times, and we’ve had occasions when governments – including Malta’s – have officially stated that some countries have taken responsibility for migrants who arrived on boats from northern Africa. But these “numbers” are just a small fraction of the thousands that have made their way across the seas.

Some were lucky to make it, but there were hundreds who lost their life in an attempt to start a new life. There may be many more hundreds that we do not even know about. Each one of them had hopes of a new beginning.

Politicians have a duty to try to find a solution.


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