A fishing boat carrying hundreds of refugees was pulled over by the Italian navy as Europe worries about an ever-growing immigrant population.
Nearly 500 illegal immigrants, largely from Egypt, Syria and Bangladesh, were rescued from the Mediterranean as they tried to cross from Africa to Europe via a fishing boat. The Sicily-bound boat had more than 100 children on board, many of them unaccompanied minors. It was an all-night operation for the Italian navy as they rescued refugees in stages; the women and children were brought aboard two navy vessels first, after which the rescue was suspended due to rough water and then resumed the next day.
Circumstances in the three countries have led to a massive influx of illegal immigrants fleeing their homes, and heading for Europe, escaping poverty or conflict in their home countries, and this year in particular has seen a massive spike in the number of migrants trying to cross the sea. Especially problematic is, although most of the kids under 10 who arrive in Italy are accompanied by family members, many of them are actually travelling on their own; of over 26,000 migrants who landed in Italy this year, 3,848 were children and of those a whopping 2,744 of them were unaccompanied minors. The Save the Children charity has voiced concern over this, as not only are the kids making the journey aboard dangerous vessels, but more importantly, the charity says that Italy has neither the space nor the resources and equipment to house and protect them.
Italy has warned that they may allow the arriving immigrants to leave the country and travel into Northern Europe due to their inability to deal with the influx and a lack of help from other countries. They've also framed it within the context of not trapping the immigrants in Italy and giving them "the opportunity to exercise their right of political asylum in the rest of Europe."
This comes in the wake of French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen's controversial statement where he casually suggested that Ebola would help control Europe's immigration problem. At a Tuesday election rally for his right-wing party, the Front National (which he founded), the 85-year old said that a "population explosion" is essentially the cause of Europe's current "immigration problem" and remarked that "Monseigneur Ebola could sort that out in three months." Naturally, his casual tossing around of the idea that a horrific and deadly virus should "sort out" the issue of too many immigrants on his continent has sparked global outrage. However, Le Pen (who incidentally, was actually convicted for inciting racial hatred back in 2005) defended his statement, saying that it was merely an "observation" that things like diseases affect population trends.
The disease, which incites internal and external bleeding (and has no cure), led to a number of false reports in Italy last month that immigrants were bringing the disease with them, following the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. These reports however, proved false, but the issue of immigration is still on the minds of many Europeans.