How about that dopey Pope? Having insinuated that that Donald Trump was “not a Christian” for wanting to protect the U.S. from illegal immigration with a wall—forgetting, incredibly, that the Vatican City statelet is itself protected by a wall—Pope Francis has just met on the eve of the New York State primary with Bernie Sanders, while insisting, also incredibly, that the meeting did not amount to meddling in American politics [Pope says it’s crazy to see his meeting with Bernie Sanders as political, by Philip Puella, Reuters, April 16, 2016].
Next, and even more amazing: in an obvious rebuke to the European Union’s very half-hearted deportation efforts (see below), he flew to the refugee-swamped Greek island of Lesbos and brought three Muslim (!) families back to Rome—although not, apparently, to Vatican City. [‘You are not alone’: Pope brings 3 Muslim refugee families to Rome, WFAA, April 16, 2016]
It’s just the latest lunacy in Europe’s illegal immigrant crisis. Watching it has gone from being puzzling, through infuriating, over to horrifying, and out the other end to just creepily fascinating, like watching a snake devour a mouse.
With the weather warming, the Mediterranean is filling up with Third Worlders from Africa and the Middle East seeking to break into to Europe. There are two main routes, the eastern route and the central route.
The eastern route goes from Turkey to the Aegean Islands of Greece, mainly to Lesbos, which is just ten miles across the sea from the Turkish shore. Greece is a member of the EU, the European Union, and also of the Schengen Area, the 26 European countries that allowed, until recently, unrestricted travel among themselves.
The central route is from the shores of North Africa, mainly Libya, to Italy. There is way more water to cross there: from Libya to Sicily is 250 miles. Italy, like Greece, belongs to both the EU and the Schengen Area, so it’s attractive to illegals. The tiny Lampedusa Islands, much closer to Libya — less than 100 miles — are Italian, but not popular with the illegals now as it’s hard to get transferred off them to mainland Italy.
There is a western route too, from Algeria and Morocco into Spain, but the volume here is small.
The eastern route from Turkey to Greece was the subject of a deal between Turkey and the EU earlier this year, brokered by Angela Merkel, the Wicked Witch of the West. [Migrant crisis: EU-Turkey deal comes into effect,BBC, March 20, 2016]The deal allows some limited, qualified right for Greece to return illegals back to Turkey, balanced with the right of an equal number of genuine refugees to enter Europe. For this dubious concession, Turkey receives a bribe of three billion dollars and the right for Turks to enter the Schengen Area from this June, without passports or border controls.
As half-hearted as it is, the deal, which took effect March 20th, has been enough to deter people from taking the eastern route. Twenty thousand people took this route in the first half of March; in the first half of April, after the EU-Turkey deal kicked in, it was two thousand, a drop of ninety percent.
This is the deal that Pope Francis apparent wants to undermine.
All the people-smuggling action now is on the central route. Middle Easterners don’t figure much here. The great majority of illegals taking the central route are sub-Saharan Africans, young black men in their twenties and thirties.
The numbers are swelling fast. The International Organization for Migration reports that in the three days up to this Friday, nearly six thousand illegals arrived in Sicily. Last year’s arrivals in Italy were 153,000. They’re expecting way more this year.
The question gets asked a lot in the comment thread to these stories: Why don’t the Europeans just turn the boats back, as Australia does?
Answer: The people-smugglers working the Australia route had to get their customers across 500 miles or so of serious ocean. They used real ships made of wood or metal, not easy to sink. The Mediterranean smugglers use inflatable rubber dinghies. If that Italian cruiser looks as though it won’t pick you up, or tries to tow you back to Libya, you just stick a pen-knife in the boat. Then you’re all floundering in the water, some Italian crewman is catching it on his iPhone, and the captain can’t not rescue you, if he doesn’t want to find himself on TV news as a heartless assassin.
So Italy’s taking in two thousand Africans a day. What’s it doing with them? Shipping them north, for preference. That’s where the illegals want to be—in north European countries where the benefits are generous and the police not so corrupt.
The smugglers, always two or three steps ahead of the authorities, have been guiding the illegals along old donkey tracks through the Alps, from northeast Italy into western Austria. Austria’s skinny right there, so it’s just a hop and a step into Germany and the welcoming arms of Mutti Merkel.
A sidebar issue here is the extent to which the crisis of illegal immigrants is destabilizing the Balkan nations — Greece, Bulgaria, the states of the former Yugoslavia. Parliamentary democracy’s a new thing in these places, with no deep roots. Macedonia’s been in a state of political crisis for months. Croatia and Serbia are snarling at each other. Russia is mixing the pot with ethnic appeals to the Slav states. Greece’s problems are well known, and getting worse.
None of this is directly related to the crisis over illegals, but it isn’t helping, as we see with the recent clashes on the Greece-Macedonian border.[ Macedonian police teargas refugees protesting at Greek border, RT.com, April 16, 2016]
Eastern route, central route; the weather’s getting warmer. This will not end well.
Especially if Pope Francis (and probably Bernie Sanders) has anything to do with it.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjectsfor all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived atJohnDerbyshire.com.