Media review: Italy boat sinking prompts soul-searching
- 5 October 2013
- From the section Europe
The migrant boat disaster off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa dominated Friday's front pages of Italian papers and some other European countries, prompting commentators to question European immigration policies and to wonder how a repeat of such incidents can be avoided.
However, the sinking of the fishing vessel and drowning of more than 300 African migrants appeared to generate little comment in the media of their home continent.
The Awate.com news website, which is hosted in the United States and serves an Eritrean audience, did comment on the incident, saying that ''the only way to stop such tragedies from repeating over and over again is to target the root cause - the predatory Eritrean regime'', which it said Eritrean migrants were escaping from.
'Welcome to Italy'
In Italy, the main papers all carried pictures of body bags, survivors and rescuers.
"Lampedusa, a sea of dead" was the headline of local daily La Sicilia. "Immigrant apocalypse" read the front page of the Giornale di SicliaSicilia The front page of Rome's Il Tempo featured a white cross against a black background with the headline "Welcome to Italy".
National daily Corriere Della Sera carried a front-page commentary by Gian Antonio Stella saying that a long-running tally of the death toll for illegal immigrants trying to get to Europe was now said to be around 20,000.
"These waves of people coming ashore cannot remain an Italian problem. This issue concerns everyone. Just as the mayor of Lampedusa urged [prime minister Enrico] Letta to "come and count the dead with us"... so should the same cry be directed at Brussels," he wrote.
'Europe must open up'
Rome's La Repubblica published an interview with Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, who is Congolese-born and the first black minister to serve in Italy's cabinet.
She told the paper that "I could have been on that boat" and that it was time to review Italy's 2002 immigration law, which introduced criminal sanctions for those caught entering the country illegally.
Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on its front page echoed the words of Pope Francis, who described the disaster as "a disgrace which must not be repeated".
In Germany, Christian Jakob said in Berlin's Die Tageszeitung: ''In the face of the catastrophe everyone is blaming unprincipled people smugglers, or is even demanding 'national mourning'. But it's clear what must be done... Europe must open itself up again to those seeking shelter. Otherwise the dying will continue.''
Klaus Huhold in Austria's Wiener Zeitung said: ''Europe's present immigration policy tries to make it as hard as possible for refugees to get to Europe in the first place... The tragedy of Lampedusa proves again how ineffective this policy is and the deadly consequences it can bring. Whoever sees a journey on a wooden boat to Lampedusa as his last chance will take that chance - no matter how dangerous it might be.''
In Switzerland's TagesAnzeiger, Stephan Israel said: "Countries without external borders - such as Germany or Switzerland - can no longer leave it to the exposed Italians, Spanish or Greeks to deal with the refugee trek. Some more solidarity would make the horror at the daily drama on the margins of affluence more credible.''
Spain's El Pais reported on the sinking and said: "The only thing that is different is the number. A number sufficiently high to be dressed up with big words of mourning and alarm; an endless line of dead without names at the start of the TV news. The rest happens every day.''
Somali websites carried factual reports on the sinking: "More than 130 Africans including Somalis died in Lampedusa" (Shabeelle); "Boat carrying 500 immigrants sinks in Italian shore" (Dayniile); "Three-hundred African immigrants killed in Italy's Lampedusa sinking" (Jowhar) and "Death toll in Lampedusa sinking reaches 300" (Midnimo).