Italy’s Ten Year Challenge

Italy’s ten year challenge demonstrates that the country still has a a lot of work to do

Comparing a personal picture from ten years ago to one of today is the new trend that has recently exploded on the internet. This ironically reminds me of times where I had no white hair and weighed less, while Barack Obama had just become the 44th President of the United States. A wonderful year apparently, then. But what about Italy?

I believe the two events that greatly affected that year were the loss of over 200 migrants at sea from Libya and the earthquake in L’Aquila, Abruzzo of a magnitude of 6,3 causing over 309 victims, 1500 hurt, and over 65.000 displaced. Aquila is slowly recovering after many accusations of corruption for state money that should have been giving this town financial support for damage and other unpleasant realities. Refugees are still a concern.

The number of refugees arriving to Italy has increased since then. The number actually decreased in 2009 and 2010 and rose again in 2011, continuing to surge until reaching a peak of 181.436 annual arrivals in 2016. The concerns behind refugees also has not changed continuously becoming harder to find a deal with our governments changing so frequently.

Former prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was in charge in 2009, followed by Mario Monti until 2013, Enrico Letta until 2014, Matteo Renzi until 2016, Paolo Gentiloni for only a year, and now with Giuseppe Conti in charge. However, we have not yet made sense of how to establish our position when it comes to refugees. People from other countries, countries of war and fewer human rights, countries were living is harder than ours, countries were the climate has made it impossible to live there, countries with high levels of poverty and low levels of adequate agriculture or local access to food and water – people escaping from a hardship wishing to live, have filled our lands. However, many Italians feel threatened that these people might steal from us, whether money or work, or force us to impose their religion on us and other reasons to explain their anger towards them. In ten years, nothing has changed: refugees are people who need shelter and I wonder who would be ready to leave them in the sea instead of saving them.

Italy’s legal system was worse back then, as in 2009 we were on a global scale at the 156th place for length of legal procedure and for an extremely high number of lawyers, as this year we are among the last within the EU. On a good side, the beauty of our nature has never missed the opportunity to shine, with over 227 beaches awarded in 2009 with the “Blu Flag” by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) for their sustainable state.


So by simply scratching the surface, some negative aspects of Italy’s 2009 come out. Have we improved in the last ten winters?

Just last year, the Salvini Degree — named after the Minister of Internal Affairs Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League — won a vote at the Parliament. This degree eliminates protection for migrants who are considered uneligible for refugee status. However, it forces huge number of migrants to lose their permit to stay, although the law states that they should keep it anyways, and deny those on the waiting list. Moreover, it does not help these migrants to return to their home country. Especially considering the state in which some of these countries remain for some migrants, I imagine they would not want to go back home in any case. Many migrants were victim of sex trafficking or suffer from a form of mental illness.

Minister Matteo Salvini recently declared that he will not accept any more refugees, as those from Sea Watch, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaking with the European Union to find help for relocation of refugees in other European countries.

Many concerns against abortion, migrants, detachment of the Church in State affairs, and other similar issues, have only worsened the improvement of what is considered a human rights matter. We are denying many what should be theirs.

Exactly these days in Italy many cities as Milan, Rome, and Florence have witnessed the Women’s March — initially created in America in response to the election of the US President Donald Trump — to support human rights, and especially women’s rights. This is the perfect example for this ten year challenge, as all this time we’ve taken small steps forward as huge step backwards. We can only move forward and keep going so that in ten years from now we might say that we’ve improved as human beings. Improved in a place where everyone, especially those who escape from terrible cirucumstances or those who have lost everything, can feel protected in a land that can gain from their presence, but most importantly will include them because we will have understood that a life is a life afterall that deserves dignity and respect.