NEWS » Italy and migration - the latest news

Italy and migration - the latest news

Italy has started a new hard-line policy against migration flows from North, West and the Horn of Africa which saw a dramatic increase in the last five years. Matteo Salvini, the new deputy prime minister, and head of the far-right League party, has announced the closure of all Italian ports to NGOs rescuing migrants at sea, for the entire summer. The ban would concern not only access to ports but also the furnishing of fuel to the NGOs, accused of helping people smugglers.  

Just a few days ago, the European Union summit reached a deal on migration. The EU leaders agreed to establish voluntary screening centres on European soil, to ease the burden on countries like Italy, Spain and Greece where migrants first arrive and are registered. These centres would house migrants until they are screened, with the idea of deciding on their future more efficiently and sending back those who do not qualify as refugees. However, no country has so far volunteered to host such centres. Similar centres would be also established outside Europe, in North Africa, for example, to screen migrants before they land on European territory. These centres would be designed to reduce the number of migrants who risk the sea voyage to the Continent and to disrupt the illegal economy of people-smuggling. Those rescued at sea could be returned to those centres for screening, instead of being brought to Europe. However, it was not clear which African countries might agree to house such centres, and whether they would be compatible with international law.

EU states also agreed to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, a key demand of Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte. However, what worries many is the lack of details and discouraging past experiences with migration centres. Ten centres, five in Italy and five in Greece, have been opened in the past, but EU member states failed to accept even a small fraction of the refugees they had pledged to take, as a consequence, the centres turned into squalid, overcrowded camps where migrants lacked basic security, water, decent food, blankets and medical facilities. Sexual abuse and exploitation of the large numbers of unaccompanied minors in the camps were also reported. 

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) claimed that after all-night talks the only thing EU leaders had agreed on, was to block people coming to Europe and to demean NGOs.

There is no doubt there is still much to do to resolve the very complex migration crisis and the new Italian government seems determined to make a stand.

Giulia Lombardo

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