A coalition of EU naval forces had a busy weekend across the Mediterranean, rescuing large numbers of desperate migrants and asylum seekers as they attempted the dangerous crossing to Europe.
Italian forces comprising the navy, coastguard and paramilitary police reported rescuing 1,500 on Sunday alone, taking refugees on from five boats found attempting the crossing from Libya. Three of the craft rescued were described as large, but as is common with these voyages, they either had no crew or whatever crew was supplied was unable to raise a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio distress call.
Italian rescue vessels were instead alerted by refugees with satellite telephones.
On Saturday, an Icelandic naval vessel seconded to the EU force patrolling the Mediterranean picked up a further 318 asylum seekers from boats attempting to cross. Among those aboard were a number of children and five pregnant women.
The scale of the operation to rescue undocumented migrants is presently undergoing a process of enormous growth, as a combination of factors makes the number of people trying to illegally cross Europe’s ‘internal sea’ grow. The number of illegals attempting to enter Europe last year was almost three times as high as 2013, and is set to multiply again in 2015.
The instability of North Africa and the Levant has created a great body of people desperate to reach the security and welfare of Europe. The anarchy in Libya has left a number of ‘open’ ports only a few nautical miles away from the southern Islands of Italy. An enormous business of people smuggling has therefore been created in Libya, with unscrupulous traffickers providing passage to Europe at extortionate cost, on unseaworthy boats which are often as not completely un-crewed.
Both the smugglers and those taking the risky voyages are emboldened by the knowledge the European Union-funded ships patrolling the Mediterranean looking out for migrant boats will save them from danger and take those aboard to safety – in Europe.
It is this ‘safety net’ effect which encourages people to make the hazardous journey which caused the Royal Navy to pull out of the operation last year.
The European Union has also taken steps to prevent the number of ‘illegals’ crossing the Mediterranean recently, by increasing the flow of legal asylum seekers and refugees instead. Breitbart London reported last month on an EU plan to build refugee ‘welcome centres’ in key foreign nations abroad, such as Niger, Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, meaning those coming to Europe could get their paperwork rubber-stamped before even crossing the border into Europe.
Although 1,800 asylum seekers saved in one weekend may seem a comparatively high number, it is by no means a record for the forces now patrolling the Mediterranean. Breitbart London reported on one Feburary weekend in which Italian forces alone rescued 2,164, after a lively week in which an Italian coastguard ship was even attacked by people traffickers for attempting to impound an unseaworthy boat.