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Tattered migrants arriving from Africa bring harrowing tales of escape, and new challenges for Europe.
Possessions limited to what they could carry, roughly 500 newcomers from sub-Saharan Africa arrived at the port of Augusta, in Sicily, on September 14a€”part of an influx of well over a hundred thousand migrants to Italy so far in 2014, more than double the number in 2013.
PALERMO, Italya€”On a mid-September afternoon the sun beat down on cruise ships and freighters moored in Palermo's port.
New arrivalsa€”442 of them, most having embarked on a perilous Mediterranean crossing from Libyaa€”were due any moment at the port in Sicily. A coast guard patrol boat finally cut the waters around an anchored freighter and came alongside, its deck jammed with women in Muslim head scarves, unshaven men young and old, and crying children. Helped by deckhands, they climbed unsteadily over the boat's orange pontoon hull onto the pier. After landing at Catania on September 12, African migrants are transferred by bus to temporary accommodations. Don Sergio Mattaliano, a priest and director of Palermo's branch of the international Catholic relief organization Caritas, had seen such scenes here many times in recent months. In fact, there is much fear and uncertainty for everyone affected by the massive exodus taking place from war- and poverty-ravaged parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. A United Nations report published in June announced that worldwide in 2013, a record number of peoplea€”51.2 million, half of them childrena€”had been forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution.
Many migrants are escaping poverty and, perhaps unbeknownst to them, they're landing on the shores of EU member states that are suffering through the worst economic crisis since World War II.
Boot-shaped Italy, uniquely exposed in Europe because of its long, meandering coastline and numerous islands, is often seafaring migrants' point of entry into Europe.
By October almost 140,000 people had landed and been registered by the Italian authorities. For Italy, the crisis escalated in October 2011, with the overthrow and execution of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In the interim, human traffickinga€”fed by conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, notably the Syrian civil wara€”has increased, severely straining the resources of both the Italian government and aid agencies. Among Italians, the presence of the refugees is fueling xenophobia, fear of crime (36 percent of Italy's incarcerated are foreigners), disease, and terrorism. A significant number of migrants hope to move on to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, or other prosperous countries of northern Europe, as many did before. The crisis has also fueled disillusionment with, and even anger at, traditional political parties.
In France, anti-immigrant sentiment has propelled the far-right Front National to the top of the opinion polls.
On September 12, Italian security forces and public health staff document each of the 250 refugees from Egypt, Syria, and other countries who disembarked from a rescue ship at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. Until the late summer of 2011, the tiny windswept island of Lampedusa (population 6,500), just 80 miles east of the Tunisian coast, was ground zero for immigration to Italy from Africa.
Migrants who evaded border patrols sailed onward to Lampedusa's rocky shores, where they could count on shelter in the Contrada Imbriacola Reception Center, essentially a detainment camp built to accommodate 850 people. Conditions in the center were terrible, and on September 20, the migrants revolted, setting fire to the premises, breaking out, and skirmishing with islanders angry about their presence.
By nightfall, the authorities had captured the escapees, closed the facility, and begun transferring them to prison ships or facilities elsewhere in Italy.
Then, in October 2013, a boat that had set out from Libya carrying more than 500 people sank just off the island's coast, with 368 lives lost.
In Modica, Sicily, on September 17, cemetery workers lower the casket of Moussa Conde, from Guinea, one of 18 migrants who died at sea attempting to reach Italy. The operation dedicated five navy vessels at any one time to patrolling between North Africa and Italy, aiming to rescue migrants early in their trans-Mediterranean voyage, before their craft had time to founder.
For the past six months, Palermo has served as one of the migrants' first Italian ports of call.
At Caritas's Centro Agàpe, a halfway house on Piazza Santa Chiara in the Old City, Lamin Sawo, a 20-year-old professional soccer player from Banjul, Gambia, cited unspecified problems that prompted him to undertake his two-year journey.
Adam Marega, a Malian in his early 20s who was waiting in line next to So, said he'd spent two miserable months in Libya. Blessing (her first name), a 23-year-old hairdresser I met in another Caritas center, on the outskirts of Palermo, fled Boko Haram's violence in Nigeria's Kaduna State with her husband, Festus. Within a day after arriving in Pozzallo on September 13, Syrian refugees walk in search of a bus or train to take them to a larger Italian city. To reach Italy, the refugees had to pay human traffickers $500 to $1,300 for a spot on a decrepit, often leaky boat. At some nine million euros ($11.5 million) a month, Mare Nostrum has proved not only expensive but also controversial for a government facing an economic crisis and a nation angry about austerity measures cutting ever more deeply into the social welfare net. In April 2014, the government depleted the funds allocated for the operation and appealed to the EU for more money. In the year since last October, when Mare Nostrum began intervening, shipwrecks and starvation took the lives of more than 3,000 migrants, 700 in one week alone this past September. A love note written in Egyptian Arabic on the back of a cigarette pack by a refugee who landed at Pozzallo on September 13 says: "I wanted to be with you. During the past three years, the number of minors (those younger than 18) living in absolute poverty has risen from 723,000 to 1.4 million, out of the country's total population living in absolute poverty of 6 million, while funds allocated to help them have been halved.

On October 9, the Italian government announced that Mare Nostrum would end, as scheduled, on Friday. Pietro Forestierea€”president of the Augusta, Sicily, branch of the center-right party Fratelli d'Italia (which long opposed Mare Nostrum)a€”told me that "accommodating the migrants has become a big business, with hotels, food, and clothes all provided and costing a total of 35 euros a day per migrant, 45 if they're minors.
Augusta's prefecture has converted an abandoned school, Scuola Verdi, into a center for housing boys, who numbered 113 at the time of my visit. Maria Carmela Librizzi, Augusta's prefect, or top official, explained that financing for Scuola Verdi comes from the town's budget, unlike other migrant-related expenditures, which usually come from the federal government's coffers. Librizzi, who's employed by the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees Mare Nostrum, characterized the effort as having had "a profoundly positive effect. The Green School, in Augusta, takes in children and teenagers who land on Sicily's shores unaccompanied by their parents or adult family member. But officers of the carabinieri, Italy's rural police force, are stationed just outside the schoolyard to intervene in case of fights between the boys, which are frequent, and to prevent Augustans angry about the money spent on them from entering the premises to do mischief. Though there's been no rise in crime more serious than the street fights, Granata told me that "people see the youths just hanging around outside, and they're scared. A couple of blocks away, Filadelfio Mituri, 57, who owns the open-air Chiosco Paradiso bar, is angry, desperate, and tired. As Mituri and I were talking, a shouting match broke out between Augustan and Scuola Verdi youths. Francesca Parisi, the attorney for Centro Astalli, a Jesuit refugee center in Palermo, said, "We need a coordinated European policy to solve this crisis, so those searching for work can get work visas and come legally.
Pietro Forestiere summarized Fratelli d'Italia's thinking: Establish processing centers along the coast of North Africa, where potential immigrants can apply for asylum to their European country of choice.
In any case, after Mare Nostrum ends on Friday, France, Germany, and Spain will aid Italy in rescuing migrants at sea. European investment in the migrants' home countries, aimed at creating economic conditions that would prompt them to stay home, would be logical, but shrinking state budgets make this unlikelya€”to say nothing of war and other adverse conditions that discourage foreign investment. Until that day comes, Italy's shores will swarm with refugees, and the Mediterranean will continue to claim the lives of the planet's most vulnerable.
A night game of soccer in front of a church in Pozzallo is a welcome distraction for migrants from Gambia.
A 2005 Census of Marine Life expedition to the Arctic Ocean captured a so-called sea angel, Clione limacina, at about 1,148 feet (350 meters) underwater. Found in 2009, a deep-sea "Dumbo octopus" (pictured) may look like it's all earsa€”but the protrusions are actually fins that help propel the animal through the darkness a mile (1.6 kilometers) under the sea. The poisonous sea slug Phyllidia ocellata, which lives on coral reefs, was found during a Census of Marine Life expedition. As rhino poaching continues to climb, South Africa accepts recommendations to keep rhino horn trade illegal. New research suggests that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees can dramatically reduce the impacts of climate change around the world. The endangered El Segundo blue feels right at home amid the wilderness of concrete that is the nation's third-busiest airport. Presentation of the National Geographic Society's Gold Medal to Jacques Cousteau, 12:03PM - John F. In front of white canvas tentsa€”impromptu clinics erected earlier in the daya€”masked medics from the Italian Red Cross, police officers, fire fighters, employees of the Dipartamento della Protezione Civile (Civil Protection Department), priests, translators, officials with the local prefecture, and journalists waited expectantly. They were hours late: Heavy seas had impeded their transfer from the commercial ship that had rescued them at sea to the vessels of the Italian Coast Guard.
The influx has scrambled daily life in parts of Italy, and tested the compassion many Italians have felt toward immigrants. The country leads the continent in arrivals by sea, which, in the first quarter of 2014 alone, increased by 823 percent over the same period in 2013. With Spain, Italy shares the European record for the greatest growth in the number of newcomers since 2000. Previously, in 2008, then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had struck a deal with Qaddafi: Italy would, among other things, pay Libya five billion dollars as compensation for damages inflicted during the colonial period, in return for Libya's preventing migrants from leaving its coasts. Under Italy's Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) operation, which ends on October 31, navy vessels pick up migrants bound for Sicily, often in leaky boats piloted by human traffickers. In May, Beppe Grillo's rebel Five Star Movement, one of the most powerful parties in Italy, won 21 percent of the vote to the European Parliamenta€”a sign that politics in the country are becoming more populist, more reactionary. Elsewhere in Europe, xenophobic movements are gaining adherents, and demands that governments halt the influx of foreigners are becoming louder.
With civil conflict raging in North Africa, the number held in the center quickly jumped to more than 1,300, mostly Tunisians demanding transfer to mainland Italy and resolution of their asylum claims. With the closure of the reception center, attempts by migrants to reach Lampedusa diminished. Eerie video shot by the rescue divers showed the victims' corpses strewn about the submerged vessel's deck, with one particularly heartbreaking image showing a couple locked in an eternal embrace at the bottom of the sea.
Scheduled to last one year, Mare Nostrum would save lives, as well as help apprehend the human traffickers piloting the boats. Damiano Sferlazzo, the deputy mayor, said, "There is total surveillance of seas by radar and helicopter. The city houses them in facilities, both public and private, that provide food, clothing, and a minimal daily allowance (about 1.5 euros, or just under two dollars).

He began by taking buses through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and across the Libyan deserta€”a five-day journeya€”to the coastal town of Tajura, outside Tripoli.
He's now living in the Centro Santa Rosalia, after also making a two-year bus journey to Libya, where, he said, he was kidnapped and held for a month until he gave his captors $300.
She lost track of him on her long, erratic journey toward the Libyan coast, much of which she passed lying under merchandise in pickup trucks to avoid discovery.
After four months, when her boss refused to pay her and threatened to hand her over to the police, she escaped and lived on the run. She earned enough money to pay for Festus's passage (she'd stayed in cell phone contact with him), and they were reunited at the Caritas center.
The traffickers, once paid, locked their passengers in disused buildings by the sea for days, feeding them crusts of bread and water, waiting for free boats or clear weather.
Speaking almost matter of factly, he said, "Our boat capsized six hours into the journey.
The EU refused, saying Italy had previously received funding and pointing to the Dublin Regulation, which puts a high priority on the migrants' country of first arrival.
Traffickers no longer had to deploy craft sturdy enough to safely sail from Libya to Sicily. As of Saturday, Frontex's Operation Triton, a much more limited rescue operation, will step in. This is because Italian law mandates equal treatment of all minors, regardless of their citizenship, and places responsibility for their care on local institutions. Some pass their days begging at the entrances to supermarkets around town; others hang out in the alleys near their new home.
Thomas Granata, owner of the Palestra New Paradise Club gym, which is located in an alley beside the school, told me he's lost 40 to 50 percent of his business since April. It makes no sense to make people take a journey lasting many months overland when they could buy a plane ticket for much less money. That seemed like a good idea, according to Forestiere, but the issue fell victim to party politics, and the parliament rejected it. Will they join together and share Italy's immigration burden by accepting some of the refugees?
Blobby" and the other stars of our 13 favorite pictures from the Census of Marine Life, which concluded Monday. Despite its nickname, this little angel apparently doesn't mind showing a little skin: It's actually a naked snail without a shell, scientists said in December 2009.
Netted during a Census of Marine Life expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, this Dumbo is among the thousands of census-documented creatures that live without ever knowing sunlight.Reaching six feet (two meters) in length and weighing 13 pounds (6 kilograms), the jumbo Dumbo species is the largest of the octopus-like creatures of the mollusk genus Grimpoteuthis. Kennedy presents the National Geographic Society’s Gold Medal to Captain Jacques Cousteau, Director General of the Oceanarium of Monaco (center) on the steps of the West Wing Colonnade, White House, Washington, D.C. Italian doctors offered them plastic bottles of water and rubber sandals, and helped them up the stairs to the first-aid tents on the dock.
Italy suspended that agreement early in 2011, but cooperation between the two countries continues. France began patrolling its southeastern frontier in 2011, and has since detained and expelled back to Italy migrants trying to enter the country without papers. They could cram their human cargo into wrecks that only had to make it out to international watersa€”12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from shorea€”before sending an SOS. By contrast, in all of 2013, 700 migrants died trying to cross and 60,000 arrived safely in Europe. Two things are certain: Its budget will be two-thirds less than Mare Nostrum's, and boats will patrol waters no farther than 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Italy's shores. That's hard to imagine, given that many European economies continue to suffer slow growth, or no growth. Such marine snailsa€”most of them the size of a lentila€”are widely eaten by many species, making them the "potato chip" of the oceans, biologist Gretchen Hofmann, of the University of California, said in a 2008 statement.Clione limacina was also among the hundreds of species found living at both Poles during the Census of Marine Life, startling scientists. President and editor of National Geographic Melville Bell Grosvenor (right of Cousteau) looks on. There's a pregnant woman over there!" Women medics embraced the mothers trailing children and escorted them, holding their hands, to the tents. Most arrived before the current influx, from poor countries in Eastern Europe, especially Albania and Romania. Conditions are spartan: glassless windows, old mattresses and cots strewn about the floors, 8 to 14 boys crammed into a room. Some may even be sliding into a triple-dip recession, with high unemployment, demographic challenges to the solvency of their welfare states, and growing xenophobia. Among those standing on the steps are French Ambassador to the United States Herve Alphand and his wife Nicole Merenda Alphand; Cousteau’s wife Simone Melchior Cousteau.

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