Malta and Other Outposts under Seige
by Daniel Pipes
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I have followed the immigration problems in the Spanish territories of Ceuta, Melilla, and the Canary Islands, all easy of access to Africans; time to catch up now with the situation on comes the islands of Malta, 60 miles south of Sicily and 200 miles north of Libya. In "An Island Engulfed by Migrants: Tiny Malta Struggles to Absorb Boatloads of Desperate Africans," Mary Jordan of the Washington Post gives a glimpse of the brewing crisis on an island country of 400,000 with a long and quite isolated history. According to her, the Maltese, an overwhelmingly white, Catholic nation are reacting with anything but warmth to the 5,000 or so black, indigent, mostly Muslim Africans who have arrived in the past four years, nearly all of whom were aiming for Italy but whose flimsy boats did not make it.
The Africans, Jordan reports, respond as the Maltese would want them to – by calling Malta "midway to nowhere" and deciding to leave. She quotes Ihaps Norain, 28, a Sudanese man whose boat ran out of gas, forcing him to land in Malta instead of Italy: "You can't imagine how difficult I find it here. I don't want to be here, and I know people here don't want me." Showing a visitor the center where he lives with 560 other people, mostly Africans, he says: "I ask myself, 'Why did I risk my life for this?' I see the way they look at me on the bus. Some people make you feel so sad."
Yet this is just the beginning of the story. More than a million sub-Saharan Africans are said to have gathered in Libya, hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea. (June 4, 2006)
May 1, 2007 update: Other Mediterranean Sea islands are also becoming targets, reports Hubert Kahl for Deutsche Presse Agentur in "Illegal African immigrants now target Majorca."
May 31, 2007 update: The Washington Post reveals today the hair-raising story of large numbers of desperate Somalis risking all to flee their country for Yemen. According to the article, at least 8,000 have already arrived in 2007, adding to the 100,000 to 800,000 Somalis resident in Yemen, which "has emerged as the way station from East Africa to Saudi Arabia, other wealthy Persian Gulf states and occasionally Europe." Feb. 28, 2008 update: More details on Somalis taking desperate steps to reach Yemen, this time from Reuters. It offers lower numbers: "Nearly 30,000 Somalis and Ethiopians came ashore in Yemen last year. About 700 bodies washed up, some gnawed by sharks, and another 700 people went missing." It also notes that the in-flow began with the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Some excerpts:
Nov. 29, 2010 update: Muammar Qaddafi has demanded during an EU-Africa summit a cool €5 billion: "In order to stop illegal immigration, something significant must be done, otherwise an entire continent will pour into Europe. If Europe gives us 5 billion euros, Libya will be able to stem the flow."
Dec. 27, 2010 update: Further on the Ethiopian emigration to Yemen today at "Africans brave dangerous water crossing to Yemen, in hopes of a better life."
Sep. 22, 2012 update: With over 16,000 illegal migrants, Malta suffers from the highest per-capita influx of any European Union member; and the migrants are rotting in government-run centers. For details, see Suzanne Daley, "A Tiny Mediterranean Nation, Awash in Immigrants With Nowhere to Go."
Mar. 31, 2013 update: The past three weeks have seen 10,000 illegal immigrants attempt to enter just one Saudi province, Asir, in the past three weeks. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are either Yemenis or Africans.
Lampedusa, which lies just 80 miles (120km) off Tunisia the Tunisian coast. It has an Italian population of 6,000 and larger number of illegal immigrants. On Lampedusa, in memory of the many people who drowned attempting to reach Europe, the pope threw a wreath of flowers into the sea and presided over an open-air Mass for migrants in a small, painted boat. He condemned the "global indifference" to their plight, called for a "reawakening of consciences" to counter the "indifference" shown to migrants, and stated that "We have lost a sense of brotherly responsibility" and "have forgotten how to cry" for migrants lost at sea.
Coincidentally, just before the Pope's plane touched down, a small boat carrying 166 Africans landed at Lampedusa's port.
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