THE BLOG
07/25/2014 04:27 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2014

The Silent War in the Cradle of the Mediterranean

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Photo credit: Marina militare Italiana

Bombs and rockets are hitting the Gaza strip, killing and injuring thousands of civilians; missiles from Hamas are blocking the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. In Ukraine the recent tragedy of the MH17 flight shot down, most likely, by Ukraine pro-Russian separatists adds up to the violent clash between Russia and Ukraine over Eastern Ukraine independence claims. In the Roman and Greek cradle of civilizations, where apparent peace and water surround Southern Europe, another silent war is taking place.

In the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe populations and politics are fighting on air, on land and on the sea. Geopolitically, all zones are potentially explosives and all countries are at risk.

In recent years, Southern European coasts, and in particular the islands of Sicily and of Lampedusa, both in Italy, have been the scene of numerous arrivals of irregular migrants. These people, hopeful to find better living conditions, rescue and salvation, have been putting their lives at risk embarking in long, endless and perilous boat journeys where they have experienced shipwrecks (which are very common in the crossings because boats are often fishing vessels inadequate for longer sea voyages and because they are usually overcrowded) drowning, deaths, the most horrifying of circumstances and poor trip conditions on the way to their "European dream."

According to the International organization for Migration (IOM), asylum seekers are coming from Eritrea, Somalia, Syria and Libya amount to a total of 1,278 migrants on tiny Lampedusa alone. The greatest number of arrivals in the first six months of the year 2014 landed to Italy (63,884), followed by Greece (10,080), Spain (1,000) and Malta (227), UNHCR said. All-told, UNHCR confirmed that 800 people have died this year alone in the Mediterranean. The grim tally compares with a total of 600 deaths in 2013, and 500 in 2012.

The Italian government (the Ministry of Defense and Italian navy) launched operation Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) in October 2013 after 360 illegal migrants drowned off the island of Lampedusa in a disaster that shocked Europe and beyond. Over the weekend of July 19-20 alone, UNHCR said, Italian and Maltese authorities, plus commercial vessels, rescued 8,000 people.

Emergency operations and asylum centers are hosting migrants but the infrastructures are not adequate and big enough. Other organizations, like Caritas, Save the Children, and UN agencies UNHCR and IOM are giving a hand.

Tens of thousands of migrants have landed on Italian shores so far this year 2014 and the number is expected to soar past the record of 63,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.

In this framework, Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta are calling for the European Union's help and the 28 EU member partners ' cooperation to deal with the massive influx. NGO's, the national Southern European navies and ministries of the Interiors, along with UN agencies are calling the EU Commission to strengthen rescue operations, by providing swift access to asylum procedures for those in need of protection and legal alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.

Fleeing from wars and persecutions, would we have the courage to embark into the unknown? Would we be willing to "leave it all" and risk our lives and our beloved ones to find happiness and peace, or so to say? What would move us?

I guess despair. Willingness to fully live and desire to provide a safe shelter for our kids. Freely live in a world that unfortunately is not for all ( and should be). Have the right to live in dignity and have access to the same opportunities: education, health and food ( at least).

After all, we are all migrants. Across the centuries we have moving from one place to another in search for a home, a safe place where we can raise our children. Let's reach out to who is in need now, because, at that particular historical moment, we needed a hand as well.