Lampedusa: Italian but closer to Tunisia
About 25,000 have arrived so far. They claim to be fleeing unrest in Tunisia and Libya, but on closer examination a lot of them prove to be from farther south, many from Somalia. They are undoubtedly economic migrants rather than genuine refugees.
Migrant on Lampedusa
The little island of Lampedusa (pop: 4,500) has been swamped and the Italian government has been forced to evacuate the bulk of the migrants to the port city of Taranto on the mainland. However rather than confining them there, they have been given temporary residence visas and set at liberty. (A cheaper option than confinement for the Italian government.) However these visas allow freedom to travel anywhere in the Schengen area of the European Union.
Not surprisingly, a lot of these migrants have decided to proceed north up into France where the benefits are more generous. In a very uncommunautaire move the French last night closed their border to trains to keep the Africans out. The Italians were outraged and a demonstration on the border ensued.
This morning the French have relented and trains are once again crossing into France. However many French people must today be reconsidering the advisability of surrendering control of their own borders. They cannot now stop the stealthy invasion and are totally at the mercy of a weak Italian government which cannot afford to run immigrant detention centres and has been simply over-whelmed by weight of numbers.
The only silver lining in this story is that the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement so the invaders will struggle to reach our shores - where the benefits are even more generous than in France.