Skip to main content
editorial

A Turkish police officer carries a migrant child's dead body [Alan Kurdi] off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos.STR/AFP / Getty Images

Alas, there is no three-year-old Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, and no corresponding photographer to compel the world's compassion for the drowned and drowning migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

In this latest disaster, it's far from clear how many people died – maybe 500, with only 41 survivors. One of the 41 survivors was three years old, the same age as Alan Kurdi.

April is the best, or rather the least bad, month to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe in an overcrowded boat with a dubious crew. But much has changed in one year.

The shorter sea and land routes from western Asia to Europe have become very difficult, thanks to barriers raised by countries to keep migrants and refugees out. That leaves would-be migrants – perhaps 180,000 this year – to take the long, dangerous sea routes, setting out from anarchic, post-Gadhafian Libya, mostly having come from sub-Saharan Africa, far away to the south.

Last year in August, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said, "We can do this" – as if more than a million refugee claimants and migrants could be almost easily absorbed, housed and trained, relieving labour shortages and declining populations in Europe. There was some sense to that. But having changed her mind, or rather having realized her voters' change of mind, Ms. Merkel has in effect said, "We can't do this any more."

Long ago, in the Second World War, Winston Churchill said that Italy was the soft underbelly of Europe (the basis for a dubious strategy at the time). This spring, Italy may be the least difficult destination for the migrants from Africa (though the few survivors of this latest boat to sink have now ended up in Greece).

The Italian government feels as if it's been left holding the bag. Matteo Renzi, the Prime Minister, has been trying to persuade the other members of the European Union to join in issuing "Eurobonds" to spread the burden of looking after the migrants, and trying to send many back.

Good luck to Mr. Renzi. So far, he is not getting any encouragement from his EU colleagues.