Since the Syrian refugee crisis exploded in the waning months of 2015, there have been plenty of flame wars on Twitter and Facebook. Barbs and snide remarks were traded over whether these refugees should be sent back, or welcomed with open arms. Inevitably, these would include reminders that Europeans were once refugees too.
Europeans Trying To Get To North Africa
Take a look at these examples, with the same message :
These aren’t Syrians. They’re Europeans trying to get to North Africa during World War II. So next time you think of closing the borders you might want to check with your grandparents
They tell a basic story – once upon a time, there were Europeans trying to get to North Africa, and they were (apparently) welcomed with open arms. Therefore, Europeans should learn to be grateful and open their arms to the Syrian refugees.
The Vlora Never Ferried Europeans Trying To Get To North Africa
Unfortunately, that is yet another Internet hoax. The ship pictured in those posts is the Vlora, (IMO number 5383093). It is a 8649 ton cargo ship built by the Italian shipbuilder, Cantieri Navali Riuniti.
Since Vlora was only built in the year 1960, there is no way she could have been ferrying Europeans fleeing the Nazi invasion and occupation of Europe in World War 2.
The Germans defeated and occupied France in June of 1940 after all. So the Vlora was born 20 years too late to help ferry fleeing Europeans to safety in World War 2.
Most Europeans In WW2 Were NOT Trying To Get To North Africa
Before, during and after German occupation of Europe, millions of refugees fled to safer lands. Jews, in particular, were fleeing for their lives. So it comes to no surprise that they had a more varied number of escape routes compared to the non-Jewish refugees. Take a look at the escape routes Jewish refugees took to flee German-occupied Europe in 1942 :
As you can see, even in the most desperate of circumstances, no European refugee in World War 2 fled to North Africa. It wouldn’t make much sense, since North Africa was a major combat theatre between Axis and Allied forces. The Mediterranean Sea was also a hotbed of naval activity with many ships, submarines and torpedo boats trying to sink each other and cargo ships.
So Who Were Those People On The Vlora?
The people you see on the Vlora are refugees from Albania. The Albanians began a mass migration after the Communists fell from power in Albania. On the 7th of August, 1991, the Vlora was unloading her cargo of Cuban sugar in Durrës, Albania when she was overrun by more than 20,000 Albanians.
They demanded that the captain of the Vlora (Halim Milaqi) sail them into the Italian port of Brindisi. They were finally taken to the port of Bari instead, where they arrived on the 8th of August 1991. The pictures you see above are actual pictures of the Vlora reaching, or already docked, at Bari.