The ongoing European disaster euphemistically known as the “migrant” crisis has just taken a turn for the worse — or for the better, depending on your point of view:
Italy has summoned Austria’s ambassador after the government in Vienna announced it was ready to deploy border troops to block any migrant influx. Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told Kronen Zeitung daily that troops could go to the Brenner Pass. He said four Pandur armoured personnel carriers had been sent to the Tyrol region and 750 troops were on standby.
Austria has border checks with Hungary and Slovenia. But elsewhere it adheres to the EU open borders system.
The “open borders” system is also known as the Schengen agreement, which overlaps but is not contiguous with, the European Union.
Mr Doskozil said a military deployment at the busy Alpine pass, on the Italian border, would be “indispensable if the influx into Italy [across the Mediterranean] does not diminish.” Later Italy’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Austrian Ambassador Rene Pollitzer “following the Austrian government’s statement about deploying troops to the Brenner (pass)”.
People-smuggling gangs have been exploiting the violence and chaos in Libya. The shortest crossing from Libya to Italy is only about 460km (290 miles).
Which is why Libya was a Roman colony two thousand years ago. But whereas the Romans brought civilization and Christianity to North Africa, north- and sub-Saharan Africa are bringing chaos along with them on the return trip across the Mediterranean. But as Italy, France and parts of Germany continue to morph into a third-world slum, the countries of central and eastern Europe have had enough of cultural diversity.
The Brenner Pass is now seen as a potential migration hotspot, as the influx to Italy so far this year is higher than last year. Nearly 85,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy in the first half of this year, across the Mediterranean. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says that is about 20% more than in the first half of 2016.
So far 101,000 migrants have entered Europe in 2017 via the Mediterranean and according to the latest figures, 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea.
The Italians, who essentially provide free ferry and naval escort service for any Libyan who steps a toe into the waters off Tripoli or Tobruk, are finally threatening to close their ports and impound the so-called “rescue” agencies’ ships. Rescue from what is the question nobody ever asks, of course, because they don’t want to know the answer.