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We have to stem this awful trade


The appalling tragedy in the seas off southern Sicily may well be the worst ever, in terms of numbers lost. It is certainly the bleakest reminder that neither the countries from which the victims came, nor Libya, from which they almost certainly travelled, nor Italy, nor Europe as a whole, has begun to find a way to stem this dreadful trade.

It is reported that many of the victims came from Eritrea, but people from many African countries make the perilous trek to the Libyan coast.

In Somaliland last month the logic of taking a chance on getting to Lampedusa was explained to me. In Hargeisa, capital of the breakaway Somali region, youth unemployment is said to be around 65 per cent: the only real opportunity for the young is to get out. So people sell their camels and goats to pay for their sons to smuggle themselves into Europe. If they survive, they can send home cash to keep the country afloat.

Nobody has a cure for this disastrous state of affairs. The only long-term answer is for African countries to attain the economic stability and momentum that will create the jobs that persuade people to stay. Helping them achieve that is one of our greatest challenges.