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Arrivals by sea continue PDF Print E-mail
Jun 16, 2014 at 11:05 PM
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Rescued immigrants arriving in Sicily
An Italian naval ship steamed into the Sicilian port of Palermo yesterday with 767 of the more than 1800 refugees and immigrants rescued at sea on Saturday alone. The operation was part of this country's ongoing controversial Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) rescue program. The human cargo aboard the Etna included the lifeless bodies of ten people, including seven women, who were among the victims of a shipwreck Saturday when a vessel carrying some 90 passengers almost went down. Another 41 are missing.

The government has said it is proud of its role in the sea search-and-rescue operation for migrants which began in October of last year after almost 400 people drowned in shipwrecks off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and has no immediate plans to stop these. But irritation is mounting about the lack of participation by the rest of Europe and on Saturday interior minister Angelino Alfano said something would have to be done. Alfano said so far this year almost 40,000 immigrants have landed on Italian shores and the flow shows no sign of abating. That has almost exceeded the total number for all of 2013.

Italy has been dealing with immigrant invasions from Albania and North Africa and other parts of Africa for almost 20 years now, but the government says that the composition of the travelers has changed drastically in recent months with, at present, almost 80 percent having the requisites to seek asylum rather than illegal job-seekers . Many are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan and most are sailing towards Italy from Libyan shores, something that is difficult to control given the internal chaos of that country. Nevertheless, the government has also come under fire from several opposition parties who believe the rescue operation is encouraging human traffickers to increase illegal crossings.

The biggest problem, of course, is the care and support of the visitors once they have been rescued and Italy simply does not have the resources to do this on its own. Even the United Nations has said that more outside help is needed. And there are also health issues. Many of the newcomers are suffering from malnutrition, scabies, vitamin deficiency and, often, tuberculosis. A recent news report said eight Italian sailors involved in the operation recently tested positive for TB even if they are not sick or likely to become ill.
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