News - February 27, 2015

Meanwhile in Italy

In the news: Large groups of refugees are trying to travel by boat from Libya to Italy, in perilous conditions.
Commentary by Federico Andreotti, MSc Organic Agriculture and Lucia Salis, PhD candidate at NIOO.

Lucia: ‘The farther you live from Southern Italy, the easier it is to judge the situation there and the harder it is to understand it. Southern Italy acts like a filter, in which immigrants get stuck or from where they are sent back. So it performs a service for other regions. Which is why the people who are trying to help the refugees locally are annoyed that there is so little outside help. Europe complains that Italy’s immigration policy isn’t any good. But locally it’s a question of how these people can be helped.’

Federico: ‘It is important to help the refugees. They risk their lives to make the crossing and some of them die on the way. The navy receives a lot of money to carry out rescue operations at sea. But the captains drop the refugees offshore and don’t care what happens to them. After that, the refugees are held in reception centres in inhuman conditions. The south of Italy is currently unable to provide more and better reception facilities. But the north and the rest of Europe prefer to have as little as possible to do with the problem.’

Lucia: ‘Of course, we must also look at the wider causes of the problem. Human smugglers and the mafia can earn good money from people who are desperate and are betting on a better life in Europe. Perhaps it would be better to offer these people a legal alternative in which they can invest their hope. For example, via a system of waiting lists.’

Federico: ‘People might think that right now there is a particularly large number of refugees. After all, this topic is all over the news at the moment. But in fact most refugees avoid the winter, put off by the storms and cold. Soon, in the spring, when the Mediterranean Sea becomes calmer, more will be coming. During the Arab Spring, for instance, it was very busy. And unfortunately those uprisings did nothing to reduce the political misery.’