O Hear Us
When we cry to thee ,For those in peril on the sea.
How we loved loved that belter of a hymn. Once we were a sea faring nation and it meant something. The Italians have a song Fire at Sea which tries to appease the Gods of the Deep. On the local radio in the island of Lampedusa , Auntie Maria requested it because the weather was so bad her nephew could not go out fishing. Others requested songs for their husbands. As they listened they chopped up the vegetables for the fish stew. And how good did that look. Magnifico!
But if the fishermen don’t go out when the seas get rough the people smugglers have no such scruples. In fact they like bad weather. The quicker their boats start to sink the quicker they can appeal to the Italian navy and thereby fulfil their contract of getting bodies into the EU. Bodies,dead or alive. Tens of thousands have made it from Libya to Lampedusa-150 miles south of Sicily. But thousands have drowned, or died in the cheaper holds, dehydrated. In one week in May 1000 drowned in the Med, most sailing from Libya. In the last few years the death toll had been around 3000 a year. This year the figure is 30% higher.
I have yet to meet anyone who cares. Me included. Given a choice of these unfortunates drowning or turning up in either Calais or Dover. Its a two headed coin. They took their chance, they threaten the rule of law, they treat their lives casually, our standard of living was hard won,they wont assimilate…. the reasons for our inhumanity are encyclopaedic and so sad. And in our shame, largely unspoken.
As George says,”They took their chance, its their business.”
All these thoughts float to the surface after watching the documentary Fire at Sea.(link is the trailer) The everyday of kids growing up,the local doctor showing sainthood, a woman makes a bed and kisses the Madonna,the one man radio station, and everyday ,the horror hulks set sail.
They phone in. We have 250 on board. Give us your map reference. Help us. We need your position. Help us, we are drowning. We need your position. We have women and children. Silence. Position. Silence.
They are saved, they land, they are photoed, numbered, processed, buried. For what? Across continents, deserts, sea and beating seriously bad guys. They have made journeys of Biblical proportions. But only for a very few is there any milk or honey.
In Italy everyone knows the colour of the whores who line the motorways, who are the lads outside the supermarket who offer to carry your bags to the car. When they landed at Lampedusa they must have felt they had landed in the promised land. But no one made promises, certainly no one is keeping them. Only 2000 of the 240,000 landed in Italy have been resettled.
Eternal father,strong to save
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who biddst the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep