A few years ago the term ‘Arab Spring” stirred the Western World into a moment of hope for a brighter, more peaceful future for large segments of the Arab World. Within a year hope fizzled out. Factions and friction among indigenous groups within and without the boarders of the North African countries responsible for that moment of hope, could not, and to this day, do not provide the cohesion necessary to provide a safe environment for their citizens. Many, using legal and illegal means of transport, risked, and continue to risk, their lives to leave this chaos behind by heading across the Mediterranean toward Europe. Last year 180,000 reached Italy; 5000 died trying. The overflow of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East is straining the general good will and the humanitarian efforts toward these people in transition. Europe is attempting to do something to hold back the tide.
In cooperation with the Libyan government, Italy has trained 89 Libyan coast guards to help to keep smugglers’ boats from reaching International waters. The project has been criticized as “unworkable and inhumane”. But, it is a start. If nothing more, North Africa and Europe are trying to work together on a problem that impacts both areas of the world.
For the moment, I believe that the 89 trained Libyan Coast Guard members are very brave. This small group of men are up against ruthless smugglers and criminals who profit by this form of human trafficking. They are subject to physical danger as well as moral corruption. The Europeans have promised financial support for the Libyan Coast Guard. I hope and pray that this Coast Guard is able to find the strength and courage to carryout its mission safely and humanely