The Mediterranean migrant crisis is “genocide” according to the mayor of an Italian city on the frontline of the invasion.
“We’re living a genocide, and in a few years we Europeans risk being found responsible,” Palermo’s mayor Leoluca Orlando said Thursday in reference to the 1,800 or so people known to have died attempting to reach Europe by boat this year.
The Local reports Orlando wants Europe to make it easier not harder for asylum seekers to apply for refugee status outside the EU. Once they have been certified, they could enter the bloc legally rather than having to place their fate in the hands of people traffickers.
“If Syrians, coming from a country at war, have the immediate right to refugee status, why stop them taking a plane ticket from Istanbul to Paris, for example, and oblige them to go via Libya and the Mediterranean sea?” he asked.
Orlando’s city is in the north-west of Sicily. For the past 12 months it has handled an increasing proportion of almost 60,000 people who have arrived in Italy fleeing violence in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration, 102,000 migrants have landed in Europe already in 2015. Of those, 54,660 migrants reached Italy after sailing across the Mediterranean from their departure points almost exclusively in Libya, while 46,150 reached Greece, departing mainly from Turkey.
“The stories told by survivors who make it to Sicily resemble the accounts told by survivors of Dachau and Auschwitz (concentration camps),” Orlando said.
Orlando was in Rome for a meeting between Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the country’s regional heads on the question of giving shelter to migrants, after areas of the rich north in particular said they refused to take in any more migrants.
Renzi called for “ethical and reasonable” solutions to the problem, saying refugees must be cared for and economic migrants quickly expelled — without explaining exactly how the country would speed up its identification processes.
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