The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Rome (AFP) – Nearly 700 refugees including dozens of Eritreans have been rescued off Sicily in five operations, as leaders grapple with the issue of illegal immigration at a European Union summit.

Italian coastguard and navy vessels and a Maltese cargo ship have saved asylum-seekers from five boats in the past 24 hours, including at least two that were adrift, officials said on Friday.

“It was a night of rescues in the Strait of Sicily” — the stretch of water between Sicily and Tunisia, the coastguard said in a statement.

The 318 migrants picked up by the navy were all packed on two boats and were later transferred onto the San March amphibious assault ship taking part in a massive search and rescue operation.

The operation was launched by the Italian government in the wake of an October 3 refugee shipwreck tragedy just off the Italian island of Lampedusa in which 366 asylum seekers perished.

Some of the refugees rescued between Thursday and Friday were also from Eritrea, the country where most of those on the boat that sank came from.

More than 33,000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year — nearly three times more than the number for last year. The most common countries of origin are Eritrea and Somalia and now also Syria.

The mayor of Lampedusa, the island where most of the migrants land, warned European leaders of the need for an urgent rethink of immigration policies.

“Unless Europe’s approach to asylum and immigration changes, it won’t only be the migrants but the EU that drowns off Lampedusa,” Giusi Nicolini said in Brussels, where she met with European Parliament head Martin Schulz.

The 300-bed refugee centre on Lampedusa is currently housing 700 and more of those who were rescued are arriving. Italian lawmakers say the squalid conditions in the centre are unacceptable.

AFP Photo

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and former President Donald Trump.

Photo by Kevin McCarthy (Public domain)

In the professional stratum of politics, few verities are treated with more reverence than the outcome of next year's midterm, when the Republican Party is deemed certain to recapture majorities in the House and Senate. With weary wisdom, any pol or pundit will cite the long string of elections that buttress this prediction.

Political history also tells us that many factors can influence an electoral result, including a national crisis or a change in economic conditions — in other words, things can change and even midterm elections are not entirely foretold. There have been a few exceptions to this rule, too.

Keep reading... Show less
x

Close