THE tragedy of last
week's shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa was "just another
episode in a horrific saga of human exploitation and misery", the
Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, the Ven. Dr Jonathan Boardman, said
at the weekend.
At least 274 West African
migrants lost their lives when a boat carrying up to 500 people
travelling from Misrata, in Libya, sank about half a mile from the
The UN reported that most
of those on board were from Eritrea and Somalia. In a statement for
the Church Times, Dr Boardman said: "Many of the West
Africans who worship in Anglican chaplaincies in Italy came to
Europe as long ago as the early '90s by trekking across the Sahara,
and then risking everything by seeking passage across the
Mediterranean. Their tales of deprivation, constant danger, and the
nearness of death emerge only when pressed - the trauma is too
difficult regularly to recall."
The EU President, José
Manuel Barroso, said during a visit to Lampedusa on Wednesday that
Italy was to receive an additional €30 million from EU funds to
help refugees. He pledged to work "tirelessly" to im- plement an
EU-wide asylum policy.
Mr Barroso was
accompanied by the Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta. They were
met with shouts of "Shame! Shame!", by Lampedusans who have long
complained that the island is expected to cope on its own with
thousands of migrants.
On a pilgrimage to Assisi
on Friday, Pope Francis condemned the treatment of refugees. The
world "does not care about the many people fleeing slavery, hunger,
fleeing in search of freedom. And how many of them die, as happened
yesterday! Today is a day of tears."
Dr Boardman said that his
archdeaconry tries to address the current intensification of the
crisis by assisting partners in Lampedusa, principally the lay
Roman Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio, which assists
unaccompanied minors who arrive there. He said: "Italy simply
cannot cope with the pressure, in spite of a high degree of human
sympathy for the refugees.
"The waters in which these poveri cristi, the normal
Italian expression for needy humans, but meaning literally 'poor
Christs', are perishing are the same ones where St Paul suffered
shipwreck. Concerted ecumenical and integrated European effort
needs to be applied in finding a resolution to this humanitarian
disaster rather than abandoning Italy to go it alone."