As 13,000 economic migrants were picked up on the Libyan coast and ferried direct to Italian shores by European ships patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in just one week, a veteran reporter of migration to the continent has warned that this “enormous one-way flow of migrants to the West is changing Europe irretrievably and forever”.
On Saturday alone, an Irish military vessel picked up 123 people from a rubber dinghy and an Italian navy boat carried 135 migrants to the southern Italian port of Calabria. Altogether the day saw 668 migrants, mostly from safe African countries, carried to safety in Italy which brought the total number of rescued migrants for the week to 13,000 people.
Earlier this month a damning report revealed that the European Union (EU) operation David Cameron promised would “smash” people-smuggling gangs operating from Libya “does not and, we argue, cannot deliver its mandate. “Operation Sophia” saw British boats and those of other EU countries patrolling outside European coastal waters in a bid to disrupt the smugglers’ business model. The document, prepared by a cross-party group of peers, revealed that the almost €10 million operation actively helped the criminal gangs with their trade.
Sue Reid, who has reported on “the steady flow of migrants headed for Europe” for fifteen years warns that the current “enormous one-way flow of migrants to the West is changing Europe irretrievably and forever”.
Reporting from Sicily she described a scene from this week that convinced her more than anything else that the migration explosion had become “completely out of control”, after more than 500 rescued migrants came ashore:
“Coming down the gangplank they waved at the waiting crowd of TV crews, international charity workers, United Nations (UN) officials, police and Red Cross doctors, as if they were celebrities on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. The crowds cheered back, shouting ‘buongiorno’ (good morning) and clapping as the arrivals set foot on dry land.”
Ms Reid points out that the amount of excitement and “tear-jerking stories” of sentimentality surrounding these waves of migrants utterly distorts the fact that every one of them is an economic migrant. The UN’s own data on the nationalities of the people arriving in Italy makes clear that none are “fleeing for their lives” or “in need of international protection”.
With boats patrolling the perilous sea route and providing rescue service to migrants Ms Reid says “the odds are strongly stacked in their favour” and so “more – maybe a million more – who come from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia will soon be on their way there, too.”