Italy faces another wave of immigrants, emergency or not emergency?

A new wave of immigrants disembarked on the coast of Sicily and Calabria (South of Italy) throughout the month of August in inhumane conditions and after a blunt rejection from the Mediterranean neighbour, Malta.

600 immigrants only on 15 August between Sicily and Calabria, including 106 people saved offshore 90 miles south of Lampedusa, and 160 Syrians and Afghans were saved on the coast of Calabria.

A “human chain”. This is the name of the group of Italians that rushed to support the coastguard for the rescue of 160 immigrants – among them more than 50 children – arrived on the beach of Morghella, in the province of Siracusa (Sicily).

A few days before, on the 10th of August, in Catania (Sicily) 104 immigrants arrived in miserable conditions after one week of journey that ended tragically for 6 of them. Among the victims a minor. The immigrants stated they were coming from Egypt and Syria.

The victims of the disembarkment in Catania. Photo's credits to ANSA
The victims of the disembarkment in Catania. Photo’s credits to ANSA

From 1 August 2012  to 10 August 2013, 24.277 immigrants disembarked on the Italian coasts, 8.932 of them arrived only from 1 July of the current year. 1.338.760 residency permits have been released or renewed in the last year, 478.508  of them for re-union. Up to now there are almost 4 milions of regular foreigners in Italy, the majority are from Morocco (526.893), Albania (506.515), China (317.673) and Ukraine (232.444).  Most of them live in the biggest Italian cities, Milan (457.005) and Rome (321.380).

The matter triggered strong and passionate debates between Malta and Italy and among EU Member States over immigration measures and refugees placement.

The situation in Italy is not an “unbearable emergency” said the Italian Minister of Internal Affairs, Angelino Alfano, at the annual conference on Ferragosto (15 August), but “the issue of immigration in Lampedusa cannot be considered as a national matter. The management of that border has to be a European concern”.

It is not certainly the first time that Italy deals with immigration issues. Another case has to be recalled when in 2009 the Turkish merchant ship Pinar rescued 140 immigrants on rubber boats in the canal of Sicily after Malta rejected the flux. Although the rescue occured in Maltese sea areas, officials refused to accepts the immigrants.

The European Union already rejected in 2011 the “cry” for help from Italy and Malta, basing its reasons on two factors: there was no majority in the Council (only Matla and Italy) for a temporary international protection that implies the distribution of immigrants in other EU countries, and secondly, there were no conditions to propose and start such a directive, because the flux of immigrants came from war countries or from places where human rights have been drastically violated.

The case is the same and the answer idem. Italy, as other Mediterrenean countries , has been dealing with immigration for decades due to its geographical position close to the African continent and the Middle East, which are in a status of permanent alert and recently of state emergency. With a population of around 60 mllions inhabitants, Italy is able to manage the flux as other European countries did in the past – as also the EU reminds.

Public opinion is generally divided, “how can we shut the doors to refugees?” or “foreigners come here and steal our jobs”. These are the most popular feelings not only for ordinary people but also among politicians.

Immigration is the most ancient movement and Italians themselves were famous in the 60s for such measure, when they escaped from Italy to look for fortune. Immigration is not the reason why Italy is in recession and political crisis, lets keep this in mind.

Laura Zuffi


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