The flow of migrants from North Africa into southern Europe is no new thing. It has been going on for decades, but now it’s become the stuff of tragedy as thousands cram into tiny vessels scarcely fit for a mill-pond and head off across two hundred miles of treacherous sea.
Europe is suddenly caught in a dilemma. Will it rage against illegal immigrants, or weep over the loss of thousands of lives? But behind the dilemma there is also guilt. For centuries we Europeans shamelessly took advantage of freedom of movement to turn up unbidden and unwelcome on other shores, killing native inhabitants, destroying their culture and plundering their treasures.