After days without making great comments, Italian right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloniseems to be willing to take some more serious measures in relation to the tragedy of the hitherto 70 migrants (16 of them minors) drowned in the Mediterranean near Crotone (Calabria), when the ship carrying them sank on February 26. She had regretted the fact but did not even go to Crotone to meet the families of the victims and the survivors, which, instead, the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, did.
But recent statements by Pope Francisco, on Sunday at the Angelus at noon, seem to have motivated her. Meloni summoned all his ministers for Thursday in order to carry out the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Cutro (near Crotone) and important decisions are expected.
The Pope’s words
“I express my sorrow for the tragedy that occurred in the waters of Cutro, in Crotone,” Pope Francis said Sunday. I pray for the many victims of the shipwreck, for their families and for those who have survived. I express my appreciation and gratitude to the local population and the institutions for the solidarity and welcome towards these brothers and sisters of ours and I renew my appeal to all so that similar tragedies do not happen again”. The Pope also reiterated his request to “stop the traffickers of human beings, that they do not continue to dispose of the lives of so many innocents! May the journeys of hope never again become journeys of death! May the clear waters of the Mediterranean no longer be filled with blood with such dramatic incidents!
The words of the Pope were joined by those of Mattarella who, speaking this Monday at the University of Basilicata, stressed that “the shipwreck of Crotone cannot remain just another tragedy that will be forgotten with the passing of time.” “Condolences must be transformed into concrete options on the part of everyone, of Italy and of the European Union,” the president stressed.
For Meloni “the words of the Holy Father represent a great call to all institutions. As a government we make them ours and we will continue to use all the necessary forces to fight human traffickers and stop deaths at sea,” he said. But that didn’t stop him from being criticized. “The premiere jumps over Bergoglio’s phrases but it is forgotten every year that he issued warnings about the reception of migrants,” he recalled to the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.
And to his co-religionists Meloni said, according to reports: “Too many mistakes, too many things taken lightly” and summoned the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, for a meeting. Piantedosi, whom many solidarity and center-left organizations point to as one of those responsible for the shipwreck and are calling for his resignation, will have to report in detail this week to the Italian Parliament on the events that occurred in the Calabrian Sea.
And although there is still no official information, the Council of Ministers, which will meet in Cutro, is expected to decide on harsher penalties against traffickers and on written rules regarding salvage at sea. This last point has triggered numerous criticisms against the government, especially the Minister of Infrastructures, the right-wing leader and leader of the League, Matteo Salviniwho took harsh anti-migrant measures when he was Minister of the Interior (2018-2019) and who would have ordered the Coast Guard, among other things, not to act or act limitedly towards migrants at sea.
The Via Crucis
On Sunday, about a thousand people participated in the Stations of the Cross in memory of the 70 victims, on the beach facing the sea where the shipwreck occurred. It was a moment of prayer for christians and muslims since most of the migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are Muslims.
The Via Crucis carried a cross made by an artist from Calabria with the found remains of the ship. “We wanted to make this cross to remember the innocent people who died in the shipwreck. This drama will never be erased from our memory,” said Father Francesco Loprete, a priest from a town near the shipwreck, who organized the Stations of the Cross.
In the Calabrian sea meanwhile, the naval authorities continue to search for other missing persons. Some 80 migrants were rescued alive since the wreck, 22 of them have been sent to Crotone hospital for treatment. The others were sent to a reception center for refugees.
The boat had left 4 days before from the Turkish port of Smyrne. On Saturday the barge had been detected by a plane from the European agency Frontex that was patrolling the area and informed the Italian naval forces. But they did not act to save people because the Frontex warning did not speak of a dangerous situation, Italian authorities said.
While some right-wing politicians foment fear of migrants and people from the North of Italy above all, distrust them and reject them, in the industrial sectors they lament because there is little labor. Companies in the Northeast can’t find staff because of the demographic decline (Italians don’t have children or a maximum of one and young people go to live in other countries). And that refers above all to the sectors of tourism (which is growing enormously after the pandemic), construction, agriculture and transport. And many of the businessmen ask for foreigners, sometimes because they can exploit them better, other times because they speak other languages and that is useful, and also because they are experts and hard workers.
Finding a suitable person to take over takes five months or more, experts say, whether they are engineers, technicians or laborers. A company that produces heating appliances near Vicenza (north of the country), for example, today has about a thousand employees of 30 different nationalities. But now it is not easy to find new employees to replace the old ones. That is why several companies in the north speak of the need to increase the flow of foreign workers and review the rules that regulate this income.
And since these are companies that feed the country’s wealth, according to them the government should take this into account, doing something similar to what Germany did with the Turks and later with the refugees from Syria. In the 1960s, in fact, the German government signed an agreement with Turkey to stimulate the arrival of Turkish migrants in Germany. Today it is the largest foreign community in Germany with about 3 million people.