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Mediterranean migrants dying of European indifference

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By Piero Galvano

The 27 migrants who survived the shipwreck must have been exhausted when they arrived in Sicily (800 are believed to have drowned). First the shipwreck, in which they lost family and friends, then they were taken to Malta, and then they had a 9 hour journey by boat from Malta to Sicily.

We were asked by the local authorities to bring shoes, clothes, food and something to drink for the migrants to the port. The migrants have lost everything so it was important that they had nourishing food and some clothes to put on their backs.

When they came off the boat, several of the migrants were taken away separately in a police van. I think these must have been the smugglers who had been on the boat. The other migrants were taken to a migrant centre in Mineo, elsewhere in Sicily. As the bus went past, one of the migrants smiled at us. Someone said four people under the 18 had survived the shipwreck. But we don’t know if this is true yet.

The migrants who cross the Mediterranean are often people who’ve fled wars and who have lost everything. They pay traffickers huge sums of money for a journey of death.

On any given day, at Caritas Catania we provide around 400 migrants with breakfast and dinner, we also provide them with clothes and pay for them to go to other parts of Sicily if they wish.

Many people who come to us are on their way somewhere else. They often want to go either to the north of Italy or northern Europe. Around 40 percent of people who come to our soup kitchen are Italian as times are difficult for many Italian families. Most of the work is done by volunteers, and we’re very grateful for their contribution.

The root of this problem of the migrants dying in the Mediterranean lies with the European Union. People are waiting for the EU to take a decision on the migrant crisis because there’s just one tragedy after another. It should have a policy to receive the migrants, rather than just washing its hands of them.

What is happening of the coast of Sicily is a humanitarian tragedy. But we only seem to be able to understand things which touch us personally. Hundreds of thousands of people mobilised after Charlie Hebdo following the deaths of 12 people. Thousands of migrants are dying because of indifference. What are they: second class citizens?

About the Author: Piero Galvano

Don Piero Galvano is director of Caritas Catania in Italy.