Exodus to Italy: Will the EU remain inactive

The Balkan route is closed off, but the problem remains unsolved. More than 90,000 refugees have already reached Italy this year, while over 2,000 have drowned in the Mediterranean. Rome is becoming increasingly critical of the rescue missions out at sea and the Ministry of the Interior and NGOs are wrangling over a code of conduct meant to regulate these operations. Both the EU and the NGOs need to act now, commentators stress.

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La Stampa (IT) /

NGOs behaving irresponsibly

La Stampa is incensed by the aid organisations' negative response to the code of conduct:

“With their political short-sightedness Italy's friends and partners have left the country in the lurch. The Italian government saw the NGOs as friends - and continues to do so. … But yesterday the NGOs went too far. The Interior Ministry had made it unmistakably clear: Italy has no intention of banning the rescue operations at sea. Rather than being an obstacle, the code of conduct is meant to regulate their activities sensibly. One of the most respected and professional organisations, Save the Children, has signed the code, demonstrating a commendable sense of responsibility. The refusal of the others therefore can't be justified and borders - from the point of view of safety - on irresponsibility.”

Imerodromos (GR) /

EU's anti-refugee policy fuels neo-Nazism

In recent times not just the boats of NGOs trying to rescue refugees in distress are patrolling the Mediterranean but also the C-Star, a ship hired by a far-right anti-immigrant movement. Under the slogan "Defend Europe" it is trying to intercept refugees and take them back to Africa. The initiative prompts web portal Imerodromos to draw a comparison:

“The initiative of the far-right movement isn't that different from those of the official initiatives and those of the EU authorities regarding refugees and migrants. The official policy of 'returns' is no different to what the fascists of the C-Star are doing. This parallel is interesting because on the one hand it highlights the reactionary character of the European Union and on the other it proves that the EU's anti-refugee and anti-migrant policies fuel neo-Nazism and fascism.”

El País (ES) /

The wrong people under suspicion

El País defends the NGOs that have repeatedly been criticised in the debate:

“The Italian authorities' demand that NGOs conducting rescue operations in the Mediterranean follow a code of conduct, coupled with the threat that if they don't their boats will be denied access to their ports, is a grave error. It suggests that the NGOs are collaborating with the mafias when in reality they are taking over the rescue operations that have been neglected by the EU authorities. The thousands of refugees and migrants saved by these organisations highlight the need for their presence. And the drowned and missing show that all their efforts still are not enough to avoid tragedies. The fact that the people smuggling mafia are taking advantage of the presence of these rescue teams to fill their own boats is lamentable, but under no circumstances are the NGOs to blame.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Europe needs an immigration system

Europe will have to make long-term plans for dealing with a growing number of immigrants, predicts Helsingin Sanomat:

“Population growth and climate change are adding to the pressure on people to leave Africa and conflict zones in the Middle East. ... Many of the people who reached Italy this year come from countries in Africa and generally won't be granted asylum. Many try to find work in Europe and apply for asylum if they are picked up by the authorities. The asylum system is abused because there are no legal routes to Europe. Instead of debating over details, Finland and other countries need to focus more on what the system as a whole should look like. Otherwise Finland and Europe will be ill prepared for the future. ”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

Hardened to horrors

Protagon is not surprised at the media's indifference to the death of refugees on boats in the Mediterranean:

“The tragedies in the Aegean are not coming to an end. The situation in the refugee camps has not improved. ... But why have we got used to these horrors? One might think people have become tired of listening to news about refugees. Others might blame the media, who no longer analyse the issue as they used to do. ... The fact is that only very few people are interested in what is happening in the refugee camps. Very few people are shocked by a new tragedy in the Aegean nowadays. People grow indifferent to the shudder of horror that keeps on repeating itself.”