By Alessandra Cardone
ROME, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- European authorities are facing renewed pressures in the aftermath of the last immigration's tragedy that occurred off the Italian coast Friday night.
Several dozens of migrants died when their boat, with more than 200 people on board, capsized 120 km (70 miles) off Lampedusa, but still in Maltese territorial waters as authorities from La Valletta confirmed.
Only few days before, on October 3rd, a major shipwreck happened in similar conditions: more than 300 migrants died and rescue divers are still working to recover bodies from the sea.
After the last incident Italy reiterated immediately the appeal for more help to European partners. Prime Minister Enrico Letta spoke to the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and asked for immediate intervention of the European Union (EU).
Maltese authorities, which have worked closely with Italians in the rescue operations this time, added their voice to the plea. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that waters between Africa and Europe are becoming "a cemetery."
"How many people have to die before action is taken? Malta and Italy are working together and we feel abandoned on this operation. This is a European problem and we will make sure our voices will be heard during the next European Council," said Muscat Friday night.
The strategy of EU is to strengthen the operations of Frontex (the European Agency for external borders security, created in 2004 and operative since October 2005) and help southern European countries like Italy to cope with the thousands of migrants who try to enter illegally each year.
The EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom repeated her call to EU members, asking them to make available the necessary resources to grant a wider Frontex operation. "In the aftermath of Lampedusa tragedy we heard solidarity expressions from all EU countries, but these will remain only empty words if they are not followed by concrete actions," Malmstrom said.
The EU commissioner has planned to extend patrols and rescue operations on a wider range, from Cyprus to Spain, to better intercept boats and, possibly, better assist migrants in danger.
A similar plan was already put to use after riots spreading in some countries in Mideast and North Africa in 2011, when the uprisings resulted in an increase of people leaving countries such as Tunisia and Libya.
But more patrols on the borders might not be the best solution, at least for the safety of migrants, some analysts argue.
"If you build a higher wall or reinforce a border, people on the move will simply find some other ways to pass through. It's been always like this... New illegal tracks of immigration will be opened and the new routes will be harder and more perilous" immigration analyst and editor-in-chief with foreign affairs website "Atlasweb" Massimo Zaurrini told Xinhua.
"If the aim of the present discussion is how to avoid tragedies such as those that occurred lately off the coast of Lampedusa, this is not the answer" the analyst said. A wider and stronger Frontex patrolling the South Mediterranean sea may result in better security for European, Zaurrini explained, but it will make migrants' journey even darker.
"Trying to solve this problem by blocking the borders is like to trying to stop a boat sinking by putting your finger in the hole. It seems useless to me,"Zaurrini said to Xinhua.
Italy has received 13.267 migrants from the sea in 2012 and more than 62,690 in 2011, stated Italian Interior Ministry.
Big as those numbers might seem, they represent only a small part of the whole influx of migrants: only around 10 percent of illegal migrants come by sea, according to the Italian Caritas-Migrantes "Report on Immigration', while 40 percent come from land and 50 percent are the so-called "overstayers" (people who remain in the country when their tourist visa expires).
The sea is not the main gate to Italy for illegal migrants, therefore, but seems to be the most dangerous one. The observatory on immigration "Fortress Europe" stated that at least 19,228 migrants have died from 1988 to 2013 along European borders: more than 2,500 in 2011, 590 in 2012 and at least 551 this year. The greatest part of them died by shipwreck.
"No bilateral agreement or patrolling has never stopped the influx of migrants in recent past, simply because these people are escaping wars, torture or just hunger and poverty. They want a better future. When the route from Libya was blocked, for example, the illegal migrants' traffic moved through other ways, via Middle east and Balkans," Zaurrini said.
So far the European Union has failed to agree on a common migration and asylum policy.
The tragedy of October 3rd in Lampedusa, however, had provoked a wide range of international reactions from authorities and more awareness in common people.
"The shock and emotional response for the high toll of victims of that shipwreck have been great. It might be that all this pressure would result now in something more appropriate than putting more vessels to patrol a wider portion of the sea," Zaurrini concluded.
Rescue operation for shipwreck between Malta, Italy "toughest" in years: Maltese captain
VALLETTA, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Rescue operation for the Friday's shipwreck in waters between Malta and Italy which left more than 30 migrants dead were one of the toughest, a rescuer said on Saturday.
"I have been doing this sort of work for 10 years but this was one of the most difficult operations for me personally," Major Russel Caruana, captain of the Maltese army vessel which first reached the migrants' capsized boat on Friday evening, told local media. Full story
[Video] Italy boat disaster: 2nd ship capsizes near Lampedusa within 10 days
BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Another ship carrying around 250 illegal migrants from Africa has capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa. According to local media, the death toll has reached 33.
More than 200 survivors were pulled from the water, but dozens are still believed missing.The capsize is believed to have been caused by overloading. Full story
[Video] Italian island of Lampedusa: Primary destination for African migrants
BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- The Italian island of Lampedusa is seen by many African migrants as a gateway into Europe. The 20 square kilometers island is Italy's southern-most point.
Lying just 110 kilometers from the coast of Tunisia, it’s much closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland itself. Every year, thousands of illegal migrants, mainly from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, try to land on the island. Many pay several thousand US dollars to make the uncomfortable journey, crammed into dangerously overloaded boats. Full story
At least 33 dead in fresh shipwreck between Malta, Italy
ROME/VALLETTA, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- At least 33 people were reportedly dead and some are still missing after a boat carrying around 250 African migrants capsized Friday in waters between Malta and Italy, a week after a shipwreck left more than 300 people dead near the Italian shores, local media said.
According to Rai state television, 33 bodies including some women and children have been recovered so far after the heavily overloaded boat was toppled as the agitated migrants tried to catch the attention of a military aircraft that was flying over the area, some 104 km south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Full story
UNHCR calls for comprehensive response to Lampedusa boat tragedy
GENEVA, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday called for a collective and comprehensive response to last week's Lampedusa boat tragedy to avoid further disasters.
UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said 311 bodies had been recovered following the accident. There is still no final figure for the total number of victims who died, as the UN refugee agency estimated that bodies of between 50 and 70 people have yet to be found. Full story