The deaths by drowning of more than 350 people on Oct. 3 as they tried to reach Europe from Libya unleashed a wave of sympathy and horror on both sides of the Mediterranean for the victims and for Lampedusa, the small island stepping-stone to Italy from North Africa.
Six days later, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso traveled to Lampedusa to reassure the people of the island, and the European Union, that something would be done to prevent further tragedies and to assist those who bear the burden of migrant arrivals. Also present was Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, who as justice minister in a former government under Silvio Berlusconi was partly responsible for the Bossi-Fini law that makes illegal migration—and aiding illicit migrants—a punishable offence in Italy. The visiting officials were greeted in Lapedusa by jeers, whistles and calls of “killers” and “assassins.”
To what extent are the EU, its member states and their policies, as opposed to the smugglers, responsible for this tragedy and the many others that have occurred around the EU’s borders over the past two decades?