The Current

Migrant ship crisis solution includes facing rise of xenophobia

They are would-be migrants making the dangerous trip from North Africa to Europe. While there is concern for those who board boats in search of a better and safer life, there are uncomfortable questions being asked about whether mounting deaths will change attitudes, and immigration policies, inside Europe.
Migrants rest after they disembarked in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta. Italian police arrested 15 African men suspected of throwing about a dozen Christians from a migrant boat in the Mediterranean, as the crisis off southern Italy intensified. (REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello )

We may never know the exact number of those, who were lost this past weekend. But what we do know is that, once again, the Mediterranean Sea became a watery grave to hundreds of souls... all desperate for a better life, and all packed into rickety vessels, attempting the passage from North Africa to Europe.

Twenty-eight survivors were rescued off the coast of the Italian island, Lamepedusa. But their ship had been carrying somewhere between 700 and 950 before it capsized. Yesterday more rescue operations were underway to save an estimated 1,500 migrants in the Mediterranean according to the United Nation High Commission for Refugees.

 Sarah Tyler is the Head of Humanitarian Communications for Save the Children. She was there to witness the rescue operation of what is being called the worst Mediterranean migrant disaster to date. We reached her in Catania, on the east coast of Sicily.

Anti-immigration & xenophobia attitudes continue to rise across the EU. (REUTERS)
 As this tragedy laps at Europe's southern coasts, there are serious questions about how the continent will react. A populace is shocked and outraged, and politicians are promising new measures.

But there are fears as well... Fears that a spike in anti-immigrant sentiment in certain regions of Europe, and an accompanying streak of xenopobic rhetoric from parties of the far-right, could prove too much to prevent the next tragedy.

  • Heaven Crawley is a professor in International Migration at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in the UK.
  • Andrea Mammone is a Lecturer in Modern European History at the Royal Holloway University of London.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Idella Sturino.