Let’s be honest with ourselves. The real question is: how much do we care about human rights?
The recent events that made all Europe (and beyond) talk about Italy, have also brought a lot of discontent and debate among Italian citizens. In particular, the Aquarius ship case, an ONG ship with over six hundred migrants on board coming from North Africa to whom the new Interior Minister, the Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, forbade to enter Italian harbors, has split the country in two.
Regardless all considerations that can be made in terms of international law, I would like to start by saying that Matteo Salvini’s decision left more than six hundred people on a ship at sea for days, while they could have been promptly rescued and assisted by the Italian rescue forces. This would have allowed to save time and avoid pain to these people, who were already coming from one of the most tiring and devastating trips a person can make in his or her life.
Italy’s migrant crisis
In general, migration is an important and sore issue for Italy, not only due to the high numbers of migrants in our country. In fact, in relation to the Italian population, there are European countries that host more migrants than Italy, above all, Malta. Indeed, in recent years, this small Mediterranean island has handled 27 requests for political asylum every thousand inhabitants. Three times more than Italy, with 7,9 petitions for international protection every thousand residents.
The big problem for Rome lies also in the delays of the judiciary system and in the Dublin agreements. Indeed, Dublin II rules that all migrants have to deposit their fingerprints and lodge their asylum applications in the “country of first entry rule”. As it appears clear from its geographical location, it is extremely likely for Italy to be a country of first entry. Although this provision seems to throw all the burden related to the migrant crisis over border states such as Italy or Greece, the problem cannot be solved by deviating NGOs boats towards other harbors or by sending migrants back to the Libyan coasts.
First, these all have the right to apply for asylum, and this basic human right cannot be neglected under no circumstances. Then, only in the case it is ascertained they do not come from a situation which labels them as asylum seekers, they can be sent back to their country of origin. Thus, Europe could actually address the problem by ensuring an equal distribution of applications among Member States. Unfortunately, there are some countries which oppose this solution, the so-called Visegrad Group composed of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. However, convincing these resisters to make their part in a fairer distribution system is the only feasible and respectful of human rights solution. Something that is not at the top of these governments’ agendas, though.
The Africa Plan
Therefore, Salvini has proposed to eliminate the root cause of the problem. His ‘Africa Plan’ would be to create hotspots all around African borders, where national institutions would work together with the European ones. For example, the Libyan Police Forces would evaluate on the spot who is eligible for asylum, letting pass those who have real reason of entering ‘Europe-promise land’.
In my personal and humble opinion, this is a sick idea. What do all African and Middle Eastern countries have in common? Endemic corruption. Then, how can we assure that those who are entitled to asylum are actual refugees and not those who paid more the national civil servants? In addition, making deals with African governments is everything but simple, in particular with countries such as Libya, where there is no clear government and a constant state of war. Europe cannot do this by itself and it has to rely heavily on African countries, which, repetita iuvant, are not reliable enough. Salvini tried to hide all this by visiting just one rescue center in an already planned visit, to claim that Libya, in the end, is not such a dangerous country. Definitely not a sufficient proof to legitimize this idea.
Finally, one final comment: there is always the humanitarian issue to keep in mind. To make the whole process possible, all these countries should be considered safe-third-countries. To delegate the judicial management of asylum seekers to other states, these have to own all the necessary requirements to be labeled as officially safe. Is this the case of Libya? I have my considerable doubts.
The different values of human lives
In conclusion, I would like to say a word on economic and climate migrants. At present, if you are dying being bombed, your life matters more than if you are dying because of famine or thirst. Many parts of the world, in particular in Africa and in the Middle East, are desertifying as a direct result of human actions. In particular, this is the result of Western human actions.
I know that we cannot save the whole world, but my question is: why, if an Italian citizen, like me for example, decides to move to the UK and work there (because his or her country is not able to offer what he or she is looking for) is considered acceptable, whereas if a Pakistani girl or boy comes to Italy or France they have to be sent back?
Apparently, we are not starting all from the same point in this race. Nonetheless, we expect that barefoot people can run as fast as those who have a pair of Nike.