The exodus from Africa to Europe continues to accelerate as thousands of Africans are crossing the Mediterranean in order to reach Italy and the prospect of work. The number of migrants hitting Italy’s southern shores has soared by more than 50% this years and at 33,000 is already 13,000 more than arrived in 2007. At least 500 people never reached Italy because they drowned at sea. Since December 24, at least 2,400 additional people reached the Pelagic islands between Libya and Sicily. Experts on migration believe the large number coming during the midst of winter suggests they are being driven by economic factors which allows smugglers to pile them into aged vessels for the perilous voyage. Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, threatened to fly the migrants back to their homelands, but this seems doubtful in terms of the sheer number arriving and seeking asylum.
Ironically, the Berlusconi government rode to power on the promise of being tough toward migrants and now faces the prospect of dealing with thousands of additional migrants. Many are coming from Libya despite promises by its dictator Gaddafi’s promises to crack down on the smugglers. In the meantime while Berlusconi’s followers denounce newly arrived immigrants, thousands sit in camps or wherever space can be found awaiting news of their futures.
An accident in a nuclear reactor in the south of France went unreported in the European press even though the incident raised questions concerning the safety of nuclear energy plants such as the ones France has promised to construct in Libya. The incident occurred the first week in July just as Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the role of president of the European Union. The plant malfunction led to 30,000 litres of a solution containing 12% enriched uranium to overflow from a reservoir into the nearby Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. Evangelia Petit, admitted the concentration of uranium in the two rivers was now 1,000 times higher than normal but she downplayed the consequences of the accident insisting the risk posed to humans was “slight.”
However, local authorities apparently did not accept her verdict that things were not that bad because there was uranium in the rivers. Inhabitants of nearby towns and villages have been banned from fishing, swimming, drawing well water or using water from the polluted rivers for irrigation purposes. The area is noted for its grapes which are used in making several brands of wines.
The Green Party blog of Malta expressed concern that France was going to construct nuclear energy plants in nearby Libya. There is fear an accident in a nuclear plant to be built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea might result in extensive pollution to a water body which is essential to the lives of millions.
There is no question great improvements have been made in safety of nuclear plants, but the world has yet to reach a point in which the presence of nuclear plants doesn’t also cause a risk to local populations.