Global Independent Analytics
Giuseppe Zaccaria
Giuseppe Zaccaria

Location: Italy

Specialization: Balkans, Yugoslavia

Favour, the new face of the migrant drama

Italy, left alone like Greece to fight the ‘problem,’ now is facing the same Greece faith though still trying to preserve the values that once upon a time did the basic of EU foundation to save more lives then it is possible.

Two years ago a little girl was born on board a German military ship from a Somali migrant just saved from the sea. She was baptized Sophie, and today a joint operation of the European Union vessels in the Mediterranean took her name. A few days ago a nine-month-old Nigerian girl was rescued after her parents, father and pregnant mother, died in a shipwreck. An Italian, Dr. Pietro Bartolo gave first aid to the child, Favour, on the island of Lampedusa.

Today little Favour can become the new face of a Mediterranean migrant drama because her early tragic life story went viral soon after the tragedy. DrBartolo earlier told Italian media that he had asked to adopt Favour. But as a 60-year-old with three other children, he admitted that he was unlikely to get custody.

"I want to keep her with me forever," he said. "She is a marvelous creature, she hugged me; she didn't shed a tear." Through social networks, many Italians have called to ask about the procedure to adopt Favour. They just wanted to offer her a second chance for a much better life. But in the commotion over an orphan, it cannot be overlooked that Italy is about to face a new migrant emergency: the closure of the Balkan route has shifted the flow to the most dangerous path using the Libyan or Egyptian coast and keeping the agreement with Erdogan already seems problematic.

As, British agencies reported, the migrants, mainly from Nigeria and Mali, had sailed from Libya, like many other Africans fleeing the violence and human rights abuses in their home countries. On Wednesday (May 25th), Italian Navy rescuers pulled 562 survivors out of the sea in a separate incident. The survivors were also taken to Lampedusa, a tiny island near the North African coast that has been overwhelmed by boatloads of migrants in recent years. Aid agencies say the sea crossing between Libya and Italy has once again become the main route for migrants. Some 38,000 refugees have arrived on Italian territory since the start of the year, of whom5,700 were unaccompanied minors. The number of arrivals is slightly down compared to the same period last year.

As proved, closing one route automatically opens another for smugglers who resists all attempts of EU states to deal with them. The EU mission to tackle people smuggling has failed said the British Parliamentary Committee in its latest report. “Operation Sophia,” that started in June 2015, when conflicts in Syria and Iraq erupted, triggering an unprecedented migrant flow to Europe, so far has saved 14 000 migrants, 114 smugglers boats were seized, and 69 suspected smugglers were arrested by Italian authorities. But, the operation that has at its disposal five warships, the Italian “Cavour”, two German, one UK, and seven aircraft, has no chance of interdicting the flow of thousands of people who are crossing the Mediterranean Sea. That was an inadequate response to the symptoms of a phenomenon that still has no effective solution, and this summer last year’s Mid East exodus could be repeated. This time mainly from Africa.

As BBC reported, so far this year 187,920 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea - 155,765 to Greece and 31,252 to Italy, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Friday. They included about 1,000 rescued off the Italian coast on Thursday and taken to Sicily. About 500 of them - aboard two fishing boats - had left Egypt, and the remainder had sailed from Libya.The number of dead or missing in the Mediterranean for the January-May period in 2016 reached 1,357, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. The House of Lords report complains that the EU mission is still operating out in international waters, and not - as originally intended - in Libyan waters.  The weakness of the Libyan state is seen by the report's authors as another key factor.  They say the absence of a formal invitation from Libya is preventing European NATO members from launching a military intervention, aimed at countering the threat posed to Libya - and the wider region - by so-called Islamic State. "However valuable as a search and rescue mission, Operation Sophia does not, and, we argue, cannot deliver on its mandate. It responds to symptoms, not causes”.

The report also urges the EU to develop urgently a strategy aimed at dealing with the root causes of mass migration. An EU spokesperson called the report "an informative contribution," adding that the EU would take account of its recommendations. The new Dublin version of the agreement provides for an automatic allocation of migrants based on a "reference key" which considers the gross domestic product of each country. Under this new policy established by demented accountants, the Italian peninsula should open its gates to 190 thousand people, and their distribution in other countries would take effect only above 231,000. A pure folly.

Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued by the Greek authorities on Wednesday, which bans Libyan flights from entering Flight Information Region Athens starting Thursday, the Greek media reported. Similar restrictions were reportedly imposed by Malta and Italy, although they will last until August. An exception to the rule is made for military aircraft with special authorization, and emergency cases such as evacuations for medical reasons, according to the “Kathimerini” daily. The newspaper claims the decision was made ahead of EU and NATO joint training in the Mediterranean. The “Phoenix Express 2016”exercise is scheduled for the summer off the island of Crete. The explanation, however, doesn’t convince some observers, who believe that the alliance is preparing a new full-fledged military intervention in Libya. The Greek Communist Party demanded that the government clearly state whether NATO is preparing such an operation and what the country’s part in it would be.

‘I spoke recently with [Libyan] Prime Minister Sarraj on how NATO can assist and he will soon send a team of experts to NATO to identify how we can help the new Libyan Government of National Accord,’ General Secretary Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Russia's upper parliamentary chamber foreign relations committee chief, Konstantin Kosachev, suggested that any NATO action would cause "chaos," and that the alliance should seek UN support. “Any international interference should be based on the decision of the UN Security Council, and nothing else,” he told RT.

Italy, as a “Mare Nostrum” mission signer, is looking for a solution that could ease tensions within the country and on its border with Austria. Austria said that it plans to erect a fence at the Alpine Brenner Pass crossing it shares with Italy to "channel" people. Part of Europe's borderless Schengen zone, Brenner is one of the routes that migrants use as they head toward wealthy northern Europe. Italian newspapers reported earlier this week that the protest had been organized by an anarchist group from Trentino, northern Italy, and was expected to attract demonstrators from abroad. Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in Rome last month that as many as a million migrants were poised to cross the Mediterranean from Libya this year. Italy says the figure is much lower, though calm summer seas may well bring a surge.  Italy and Germany are utterly opposed to Austria's plan to build a fence at its border with Italy,

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said recently after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile, Italy is trying to offer another approach which was announced in Rome (May, 18th) at the first Italy-Africa ministerial conference, defining a future in which Africa is seen not as the greatest threat - as some demagogues would have it - but as the greatest opportunity, Italian PM Matteo Renzi said.  “We're trying to turn Europe's head towards Africa and the Mediterranean," he said, adding that cultivating African relations is not just an ethical move but also a mutually advantageous one. The agenda we're trying to propose to Europe is totally different from the past," he said. "Economic policy is too focused on the domestic front and austerity. Many countries have run into trouble. And yet Europe is Africa’s main neighbor." Traditionally having to deal with problems generated by hardships faced by Africa’s population, Italy recognizes the way to approach the issue. The solution must come from inside Africa as the continent of origin of the next refugee flow.

‘When there's a woman or a man at sea, the first thing to do is to save that life, not to engage in a debate,’ he said. ‘We must have a strategic view of migration - there's no point in perpetuating attitudes that can fit in an advertisement - we must become aware that this phenomenon will go on for years, and a long-term strategy is the only solution.'

Italy, left alone like Greece to fight the ‘problem,’ now is facing the same Greece faith though still trying to preserve the values that once upon a time did the basic of EU foundation to save more lives then it is possible.

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