There’s been an ongoing confrontation for several months now between Italy and the European Union over what to do with boatloads of migrants who are picked up at sea trying to reach Europe. Italy’s new government has made it clear that they feel they’ve done enough in terms of taking in refugees and want other nations to begin doing their fair share. Alternately, they’ve been working on plans to return the refugees to camps in Libya and other locations closer to their own homes. Thus far accommodations have been found for most of those taken in at sea, including a couple of ships which went to Malta (after they initially refused to take any) but this week another boatload showed up and the Italians put their foot down. (Associated Press)
Italy is asking the EU to find countries willing to take 177 migrants who have been aboard an Italian coast guard ship for days following another standoff with Malta.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that it had written a letter to the EU Commission asking it to work out a solution, as it has done on several other occasions in the past two months.
The letter follows threats by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to send the migrants back to Libya — which the EU has said is not a safe harbour.
The ship is off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Italy’s populist government has refused to accept migrants rescued at sea, while Malta says the migrants were not in distress.
Brussels continues to have a problem on its hands. The EU is the body which has been attempting to mandate which countries would take in migrants and how many, but more and more countries are rebelling against those dictates. Italy is an obvious destination for ships attempting to bring human cargo from Libya to Europe, but now they have essentially closed their ports.
The Local reported in June that the immigrant population in Italy from Africa has spiked since 2013, with numbers the current government describes as untenable. (Emphasis added)
Focus is largely on the 690,000 migrants who have arrived by boat since 2013, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. While some have papers, others don’t – and most are still in the country.
Migration study foundation ISMU estimates there are some 500,000 people living in Italy illegally – equivalent to 0.9 percent of the population, among them failed asylum seekers and those who have outstayed their visas.
Figures from the International Organization for Migration show that around 120,000 immigrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2017, with the government putting the cost of taking them in at €4.2 billion. Two-thirds of that figure was spent on caring for asylum seekers, while 18 percent went on sea rescue and 13 percent on medical assistance.
In 2013, there were 22,000 people in asylum centres. By January, that number stood at 182,000.
The EU leadership surely recognizes by now that the amount of leverage they have over member nations who simply refuse to comply with their orders regarding migrants is thin at best. The new coalition government in Italy is led by people who are described as Euroskeptics (to put it kindly). If they push too hard they could have another “exit” on their hands, so the situation remains tenuous. The question is, who will take all these people in? Italy, Austria Hungary, Romania and most recently Germany have been pushing back hard or flatly refusing. Will France take in massively larger numbers of primarily Muslim settlers after all of the terror problems they’ve been dealing with? It seems unlikely. And don’t even bother asking Britain. They’re rather busy getting themselves out of the EU as it is.
It may be time for the EU to take a fresh approach and offer some help to Libya in the form of funding the construction of refugee camps there. Perhaps they could even offer some troops and humanitarian volunteers to staff the facilities and assist the refugees. But the long-term solution is not to find them new homes. It’s to quell the violence and chaos in these people’s home countries so they can go back. And that’s a project that would take the entire world to accomplish.