Last Friday the Mediterranean areas around Southern Italy experienced a rare “Medicane” event of tropical storm-like conditions. Jeff Master’s explains the science behind these rare weather events, and the likelihood of seeing more of them under a changing climate.
Storms of this nature are just one more stress to the small Italian island that is also a main point of entry to the European Union for migrants and refugees from places like Syria and Eritrea. The voyage from point of origin to the shores of Europe and Italy is no cruise:
In the first half of 2014, over 63,000 migrants arrived at Italy’s shores. Of those attempting to make the deadly journey to Europe, over 3,000 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The Italian government created the Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN) to “tackle the dramatic increase of migratory flows during the second half of the year and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island of Lampedusa.” Despite this program’s successes, it is likely going to be replaced by a less costly EU consortium project. Liz Field reports:
Mare Nostrum — Latin for “our sea” — was launched last October in response to two catastrophic boat incidents that killed over 360 people, mostly Eritreans. It has since saved the lives of tens of thousands of desperate migrants seeking to cross into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.
The operation is largely credited with saving some 400 lives a day, but at a high cost: roughly 114 million euros ($142 million) per year.
On Friday, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, Angelino Alfano, announced the government would shelve the costly naval operation. Instead, the EU border agency Frontex will step up to coordinate a new “Triton” border surveillance mission scaled back to a cost of 2.9 million euro ($3.6 million) a month, and restricted to activity within 30 nautical miles off Italy’s coast.
Vice News released a video documentary of the situation worth watching. The confluence of factors driving migration from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to Europe, including conflict, economic insecurity, governance gaps, and climatic events, is something that nations in the region and globally are going to have to devote increased attention and resources to, especially as the security of the MENA region continues to be in question, and as climatic patterns continue to change (see NOAA 2011). The combination of dramatic decreases in winter precipitation in the MENA region (and the broader Mediterranean), and the possibility of more frequent tropical storms, will likely not help the situation.