March 28, 2011
Italy immigration crisis: Fear and Loathing in the Mediterranean
Last week many undocumented immigrants from Egypt and other countries declared themselves to the Italian authorities as Libyan to avail of the refugee status and a possible fast track to legal immigration.
Since January more than 15.000 immigrants have reached the coasts of Southern Italy trying and escape from the North African quagmire.
Lampedusa which has a population of 6000 is now making space for an additional 5300 with thousands more reaching the island each week. The Italian government has started to relocate immigrants to newly created camps on Sicily and the italian mainland to release some pressure on the island, but this has not prevented the start of violent protests of the people of Lampedusa against the Italian Government responsible according to them of not being able to handle the situation and asking the immediate relocation and assistance of the European Union on this issue.
The Great Italian Political Circus
The response of the Italian government has been as in previous occasions highly schizophrenic moving from racist declarations to apathy to pure hysteria.
Lampedusa which is under administrative control of Sicily has witnessed recently a grand tour of famous Sicilian and national politicians flying to the crowded island to assess the situation and shoot some of their finest rethoric to the upset population.
The Sicilian governor Lombardi has asked immediately for the North of Italy to share the burden of the relocation and requested a naval blockade of the strait against the hordes of boat people invading the island while mentioning he was going to bring with him a machine gun while visiting the island.
Interior minister Roberto Maroni labelled the immigrants as "clandestine" dismissing calls for any possible asylum evaluation as refugees.
Silvio Berlusconi is as usual silent when it comes to important matters since he is quite busy with a trial for corruption where he was standing as accused today in Milan and bracing for the underage prostitution trial due to start in April.
Frattini the Italian foreign minister more diplomatically suggested to pay 2000 euros to each immigrant willing to go back (back where and how? He was not able to say; maybe he was thinking of giving them a ride on the jet fighters that are bombing Libya) and promise to not come back.
Bossi the leader of the xenophobic Lega Nord dismissed any payment solution and in his usual refined style simply asked to throw them out.
The Italian president Napolitano having to mantain a decorum even considering he was in visit abroad to the United States sent a message of peace and love reminding us of the favourite anecdote of any italian politician pretending to be liberal minded and telling us of how the italians were immigrants many years ago and how we should now extend the same courtesy.
We want Money!
After this coreographic ballet of fear and loathing in the Mediterranean, the Italian Government has started to put pressure on the European Union to help dealing with this issue which has been described as a possible apocalyptic scenario, where war, riots and misery in North Africa will drive hundred of thousands if not millions on the shores of Europe.
Cardinal Bagnasco invoked the european brotherhood in dealing with an issue which is European and not only Italian.
The leader of Lega Nord, Umberto Bossi sticking to his typical vaudevillan character threatened throwing out of Italy and into Germany and France all the immigrants arriving on Italian shores.
The Italian President Napolitano asked for European unity which means he wants money.
The European Union confirmed they will assist with extra personnel if necessary but that is it. According to the Schengen Treaty it is responsability of the first port of entry to Europe to deal with any immigration issue, other countries can of course provide support but not certainly pay money to the Italian government who should have all the means at his disposal to deal with 15000 immigrants or 150000. After all when Eastern Europe immigrants moved to Germany in millions, the German government did not go begging help to the European Union managed them without even sweating too much.
The reality is that a lot of politicians are seeing this new emergency as a way to get extra EU subsidies in form of financial help to deal with an emergency and to spread this money to their cronies and electoral affiliates in a fraudolent way as it happened and it still happens with every subsidy from farm to industrial provided to Italy by the EU.
This emergency which is being artificially inflated by the Italian media under directives from the leading political parties is seen by some as an opportunity to make a lot of money out of the desperation of thousands of immigrants reaching our shores.
Wikileaks last year leaked a cable from the US Embassy describing correctly what was the failed immigration policy of the Italian government and correctly putting in focus the issue of the illegal immigration; the following is an excerpt of the original cable:
The dramatic plight of the boat people, most of whom are
undocumented, masks the fact that they constitute less than
15 percent of total arrivals of irregular migrants (although
there was a 75 percent surge in the number of immigrants
arriving by boat in 2008 and the trend line in the first
quarter of 2009 appears constant). The majority of irregular
immigrants present in Italy -- estimated to number up to
650,000 but the number is likely even higher -- arrive by
land, air or sea. Arriving from non-EU countries, primarily
Morocco, Albania, China, Ukraine and the Philippines, they
have obtained visitors visas and overstay, encouraged by
Italy's porous borders and history of ""regularizing"" illegal
immigrants. Although Italy successfully expelled some 25,000
persons in 2008, a majority of expulsion orders are not
executed because of a lack of resources; Italy has less than
3,000 available beds for detention. In addition to the
irregular migrants from non-EU countries, Italy is a popular
destination for migrants from Eastern European countries such
as Romania and Bulgaria, whose citizens are able to move
freely following EU accession in 2007.
2. (SBU) .... Although Interior Ministry officials have told the
embassy that they believe there is little terrorist threat
from irregular immigrants, and government statistics reveal
an overall drop in crime in all major Italian cities in 2008,
Prime Minister Berlusconi, Interior Minister Maroni, other
senior officials, and the Italian press (of which Berlusconi
controls a majority) continuously hype a connection between
crime and terrorism and illegal immigrants. Critics of the
government's approach argue that Italy needs a comprehensive
integration policy that acknowledges the demographic changes
in Italian society -- an aging population, a declining birth
rate and the presence of some four million foreign residents
in a population of 60 million. They argue that immigration
should be treated as a resource, not a threat, and fear that
scapegoating irregular immigrants will radicalize Italy's
""second generation"" of legal migrants, including more than
one million Muslim immigrants.
8. (C) Overstayers. Government and NGO officials tell us,
however, that the majority of irregular immigrants enter
Italy with a visa and then overstay. Italian border police
chief Rodolfo Ronconi asserted that 57 percent of immigrants
who enter Italy with a visa overstay. Most arrive through
the land border in the northeast but also through air and sea
ports. Vincenzo Delicato, a senior director of the National
Police, told us that these illegal immigrants are primarily
from Morocco, Albania, China, Ukraine and the Philippines.
He explained that the border police do not screen EU
residents and conduct only spot checks on non-EU residents.
Interior Ministry statistics for 2008 record 70,625
""stranieri rintracciati"" (or ""tracked foreigners,"" an
implicit acknowledgement of a population of untracked
foreigners), of whom only 24,234 were repatriated. The
remaining 46,931 were considered not in compliance with
expulsion orders. The 2007 statistics are comparable. Other
government statistics indicate that only 20 percent of
illegal immigrants subject to an expulsion order are actually
repatriated. For example, in Milan in 2007, only 653 persons
out of 3,088 subject to an expulsion order were in fact
9. (C) Insufficient capacity. There are several
explanations for this large presence of irregular immigrants.
First, according to the vice president of immigration for
Caritas, Le Quyen Ngo Dinh, ""Italy does not really know how
they arrive and how many they are,"" meaning that most
visitors are not subject to border control or judicial
review. Second, for those who come into contact with the
state and are judged as irregular, Italy has limited
detention space: nationwide there are 10 centers of
identification and expulsion, with a capacity of fewer than
3,000 beds, and a handful of ""welcome"" centers near southern
Italian seaports to screen immigrants arriving by boat. The
result is that Italy cannot detain all those subject to
expulsion order, which means many of them simply fail to
comply. Moreover, some of those expelled return, gambling
correctly that they can again slip through Italy's porous
borders, including 1,500 miles of coastline. Third, many
governments of source countries refuse to cooperate with
Italian authorities in identifying undocumented immigrants.
These individuals can still be subject to expulsion orders
but cannot be repatriated without an identity.
Fundamentally, argues Ngo Dinh, Italy lacks the structural
capacity to manage the large numbers of illegal migrants to
the country. As Paolo Ciani, who helps immigrants for the
Italian charity Sant'Egidio, said simply: ""Not only is the
government policy (dealing with immigrants) morally wrong,
The analysis of the US Embassy although dating back to 2009 is still today accurate, nothing of the above has changed and the scaremongering of the boat people in Lampedusa is simply another propaganda tool to raise approval for a failed government and prime minister, to try and swindle some money out of the European Union in order to cover the lack of money and resources described above (it is even worst now after the last budget cuts) and to spread some subsidies to corrupted officials and their cronies while leaving the situation deteriorate.
Another interesting line of business though is being recently explored by the hyperactive mafias of Southern Italy which it seems started to enter into the business of transporting immigrants to Italy. Few of them have been arrested while transporting immigrants on the coast of Sicily. After all with war and riots all over North Africa the business is set for a boom in the future.