I am a man well endowed…with cynicism. So much so that half of it usually just goes to waste. A shame really. Though there’s always a new pump to replenish the reservoir. And while the story that follows is a few days old, I can assure it will rekindle any flagging despair that native hope for your people may have doused.
Have you heard of the Italian Navy’s Mare Nostrum maritime operation? It is a project whereby admirals scour the Mediterranean in search of infiltrating foreign craft. Upon intercept, Italian cruisers bring the occupants on board, feed and clothe them, inoculate against rabies, and then return them safely where they belong…in Italy. For no logical reason, I was incredulous. As with so many other modern examples of madness, it’s difficult not to imagine the increasingly squandered efforts of our progenitors. Consider those who fought and died at the Battle of Lepanto. For what did they sacrifice when their posterity offers not defense of their home, but a free ride into it? Some excerpts from the story.
Amid flood of refugees to Europe, Italy opens a back door
At ground zero is Italy, by far the largest gateway for migrants into Europe with a record 119,839 people arriving since January, according to the Italian Interior Ministry — already more than double the 42,000 total for 2013.
Human rights groups have criticized other gateway nations — chiefly Greece and Spain — for summary pushbacks or ill treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers. Italy, too, once repelled migrants and cut deals with authoritarian regimes in North Africa to stop them before they left. It still has agreements with Egypt and Tunisia to return migrants from those nations unless they are minors or can prove that they are being persecuted.
But arrivals are surging as Italy embraces what activists and refugee agencies describe as one of the world’s most progressive policies toward migrants.
It started last year after a series of shipwrecks off Sicily’s coast killed more than 500 migrants. In what Italian authorities call a key turning point, Pope Francis flew to the site of one tragedy, providing Italians with what some here describe as a new moral compass.
“Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters?” Frances said last year on the Italian island of Lampedusa, after a sinking migrant vessel off the coast had gone unaided. “Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families with?”
Now, at a cost of more than $12 million a month, the Italian navy is conducting massive interdiction and rescue operations in Europe’s single-busiest corridor for migrant traffic — the central Mediterranean. Rescued migrants are brought to port in Italy, offered medical treatment, food, water and temporary shelter. Instead of immediate deportation, the vast majority are granted legal aid to make formal requests for asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. This year, Italian laws were changed to decriminalize migrants, who once faced the prospect of jail time and fines before deportation.
Once in Italy, however, most do not stay here. Rather, the Italians have adopted a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy on their plans once they arrive. From shelters, where migrants enjoy relative freedom of movement, most leave within the first few nights, continuing their journeys north to countries such as Germany and Sweden that offer lucrative aid to asylum-seekers lucky enough to make it that far.
The program has its detractors, with other European nations and domestic critics saying that Italy, by aiding migrants at sea, is partly to blame for encouraging more and more dangerous crossings. So lax is the Italian entry procedure, critics contend, that criminals, even terrorists, could be slipping through Italian nets.
As arrivals approach 1,000 migrants per day, Italy is now overwhelmed, and Mare Nostrum faces an uncertain future. The island of Sicily — the first port of call for the majority of migrants — has declared a state of emergency. Cash-strapped Italian authorities have suggested that they may end the program by autumn. Last month, the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, pledged to ramp up regional support for the Italian effort. But the scope of their aid remains in doubt.
“If Mare Nostrum ends, it would be a human catastrophe,” said Carlotta Bellini, head of child protection for Save the Children Italy, which is aiding young migrants in Sicily and the Italian mainland. “These are desperate people. They will try to come anyway, and more of them will die.”
The maladaptive moral preening that nature will indulge is not infinite. The Italian government’s first and foremost responsibility is to the Italian people and securing the safety of they and their posterity. It is almost impossible to fathom the myopia required to undertake this migration incentivizing operation in that context. For of course it will draw innumerable waves of others behind these. Others who, surely some Italians must comprehend, will busily set about recreating the very environments they fled. Though in the future it will be Italy’s own children casting about for sanctuary. And when there are no remaining Westerners in the West, to where will they flee?
In Mare Andiamo.