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UN Head: Mediterranean Migration Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since WWII

  • Henry Ridgwell

More migrants have been brought ashore in southern Italy, after the visit Monday by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to an Italian warship patrolling the coastline. The U.N. chief said the recent migrant deaths had made the Mediterranean ‘a sea of misery’ - adding it was the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

Another desperate human cargo arriving on the shores of southern Italy.

This Italian naval vessel picked up more than 300 migrants from several boats off the Libyan coast and brought them ashore over the weekend in Sicily.

On board were Somalis, Nigerians, and Eritreans. Many were barely able to walk after days at sea. Some appeared severely malnourished; several were taken to the hospital or given immediate treatment.

Gemma Parkin of the aid group "Save the Children" was at the dockside.

"They were held for five days by the smugglers in Libya in a house under armed guard. Now people weren’t given any food whatsoever. They were given some water but subsequently because of the terrible conditions that people were being kept in, three children have died," said Parkin.

As the debate grows over how to deal with this wave of migration into Europe, one thing is clear: the boats aren't going to stop coming anytime soon.

The migrants arrived just a day before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Italy to discuss the crisis. He and the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Chief Frederica Mogherini joined Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on board a navy patrol ship off Sicily.

“Italy on its own cannot do this. For this reason we needed the support of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to see with his own eyes the extraordinary force that Italy is pursuing to welcome these migrants alone," said Renzi.

“We need multiple answers, to hold different aspects of the phenomenon. Saving lives, fighting the traffickers. For this we need global partnerships," said Mogherini.

But other countries may be unwilling to share Italy's burden, says analyst Riccardo Fabiani of the Eurasia Group.

“The European partners are also I would say reluctant to get involved in this situation. And Italy feels that it’s been left alone basically by its partners, facing a crisis that has no short-term or easy fix," said Fabiani.

Twenty-five thousand migrants have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year. Europe must deal with the twin crises of stopping the deaths at sea - and coping with the huge numbers arriving almost every day.

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