The Case Of The Italian Immigration Crisis And Its Solutions

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The European continent, due to its geographical disposition and its enormous historical importance, can be considered the “heart” of the world. The argument asserting that we live in a world dominated by Western Eurocentric canons and values, no matter how contradictory and biased it may be, is undoubtedly true. Democracy, arguably the greatest achievement in human history, is the political philosophy which currently dictates the way forward in the world we live in; the democratic thought is a creation of Western philosophy, and its success derives from the mutually sustainable relationship it has with people and with the type of society that exists in the world today. 

Being the “heart” of the world, the European continent has certainly not been a stranger to the phenomenon of migration; throughout history, the fluxes of migration towards Europe have been countless, however, never as problematic as in the past few years. One of the countries of Europe which has been majorly affected by this fairly recent phenomenon of problematic migration is Italy; in the past few years, the country has been experiencing a worrisome overflow of international migrants coming in, largely from Africa and the Middle East, and this has contributed in creating the phenomenon now known as the “European Refugee Crisis”, which is perhaps the most problematic, complex and controversial issue of modern times. Governments in Europe, like the one in Italy, have been caught completely by surprise and, therefore unprepared, by this surplus of migrants raiding in at an unprecedented pace and amount. Italy, which is in a position of pivotal geographical significance in the Mediterranean Sea, is also the principal country of arrival for refugees that get to Europe by sea. The exponential increase in the number of refugees coming into Italy, accompanied also by the fact that Italian authorities have been caught completely unprepared by this sudden “invasion” of migrants, have caused tensions to rise between the EU and Italy, in great part due to the fact that the costs for dealing with migrant related operations have become extremely high. The Refugee Crisis in Italy has had a significant impact on Italian politics as well, increasing tensions and conflicts driven by cultural and religious diversity, putting more stress on border control and bringing in new costs in an already tight economic situation. 

The ethical implications of the ongoing refugee crisis in Italy rely around debates regarding human rights and the responsibility to welcome and protect other human beings who are in need of assistance. However, with Italy receiving 85,000 new migrants in a range of time of six months in 2017 only, and with the economy of the country not being at its best, the worsening of the perspective of Italian people towards refugees and migrants has displayed no intentions of slowing down. As a matter of fact, data registered in 2017 showed that over 40% of Italians believed that immigration was the most important issue that Italy was facing that year, while the previous year, in 2016, a research has shown that over 40% of the Italian people agree with the argument that immigrants pose a threat to security and to the general wellbeing of society.

The most famous and radical policy implemented as way to deal with the refugee crisis was perhaps the 2018 Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s decision to close the ports to all the NGO and foreign ships carrying migrants from the shores of Africa. Despite being atypical and particularly controversial, Matteo Salvini’s policy did not come out of nowhere, but rather it is the result of various previous attempts to put a limit to the activities of the NGOs. For years, Salvini has been continuously criticizing the European Union for not helping Italy with its refugee problem, adding also that NGOs acted as an attraction factor for human traffickers who could profit from the surplus of migrants arriving in Italy. The subject of immigration has been Salvini’s strongest and most successful campaign component, and through it he was able to transform the Lega Nord from a simple regionalist party into a political party acclaimed and supported nationally. Salvini’s policies can be explained also through ethical frameworks, such as Utilitarianism. The ethical framework of Utilitarianism states that the right moral and social goal is to make as many people as possible happy, in other words to promote the philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number. 

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Salvini based his policies on what the people wanted and on what made them happy; the data from the research carried out on the Italian population was clear: people wanted a solution to the immigration problem that was affecting their country. A great majority of the population declared to be extremely unhappy with the phenomenon of immigration and with how the state was handling the situation. When Salvini came into power he gave the Italian people a concrete initiative to a solution by closing the ports and enforcing fierce laws on immigrants, and this made people happy, thus applying the utilitarian principle of making people happy. However, the utilitarian framework adopted by Salvini in his policies is not fully moral and ethical in its nature, in fact, it can be said that Salvini’s regulations on immigration reflect a rather egoistic utilitarian framework. Salvini granted happiness, but only to some people, while making other people extremely unhappy with his decisions instead. The immigrants were not the only unhappy ones with Salvini’s actions: various European leaders were also strongly frustrated by not only the regulations implemented by Salvini, but by Salvini’s person as well. Matteo Salvini became rather infamous within the European scene for his stubborn personality: during an important meeting that happened in Paris where various European leaders were called to gather and discuss about the problematic migrant situation in the Mediterranean, Salvini decided not to present himself and used his absence to send a clear message to Germany and France, as a form of protesting against new policies regarding refugee ships, which he deemed extremely disadvatageous for Italy if they were to be implemented. Soon afterwards, Salvini went on to officially declare with a Facebook post that Italy was no longer willing to welcome refugees coming to Europe. Along with this, Salvini and other right-wing members of the Italian government warned Libya to stop sending ships full of refugees because Italy will not allow them to enter its ports and, instead, will send them back to North Africa, with force if needed. Salvini’s words infuriated human rights groups who strongly condemned his intentions and who declared that if Salvini was going to do whatever he said he was going to do that would officially make him a criminal and a human rights violator. Salvini, of course, was not intimidated with the claims made by the human rights groups, and his next infamous action was to warn the SOS Mediterranee, a French rescue ship, that Italy, in any case, was not going to undo its regulations regarding keeping refugee rescue ships at large from Italian ports and territory. European Union leaders were extremely frustrated with Salvini’s claims and declared that he should be careful with his actions and intentions because they were taking a turn towards resembling the fascist ideology.

Matteo Salvini eventually lost his position as Italian Interior Minister in September 2019 when the new government formed by the coalition between the PD (Partito Democratico) party and the M5S (Movimento 5 Stelle) Party came into power. The leader of the PD party Nicola Zingretti, in a twitter post, declared that while Matteo Salvini was prone to create or aggravate problems, the Partito Democratico would aim at resolving them with diplomatic solutions. In 2018, the then Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti, member of the PD party, came to a diplomatic agreement with Libya which limited the amount of refugee vessels being sent on the shores of the Italian territory, action which resulted in a significant reduction in refugee arrivals in Italy. This goes to show that there are other ways, other than Salvini’s, of dealing with the refugee problem in Italy. There are, of course, people who will relentlessly support the ways of Matteo Salvini, however, in order to solve the problem, it has to be tackled with diplomatic intentions. Salvini’s actions and intentions lacked diplomacy and that is why his policies were only to a certain extent effective. 

In order to solve a certain problem in a political environment such as the European Union, a country has to first consult and debate with the various European institutions and then has to come to a diplomatic, internationally legal, solution which takes in consideration crucial aspects such as human rights. This might sound like certain protocols impede the normal application of the fundamental law of sovereignty which every country in the world benefits from; sovereignty is undoubtedly a vital law in international legislation, but for a country who is a member of an institution such as the European Union, sovereignty can sometimes be a problematic factor when dealing with certain issues. That is why Italy, when Matteo Salvini was the Interior Minister, clashed with the European Union and its normatives; Salvini justified his actions by claiming that everything he intended to do was defend the national interest of his country, argument which allowed him to avoid prosecution for various criminal offences during his career as Interior Minister. Salvini eventually was overthrown from his position of power as Interior Minister in 2019, with the refugee crisis still identifying as a major problem of Italian politics. It is very important to dig deep into this immigration phenomenon happening in Italy in order to fully understand what are the reasons why it is such a problem in this country. Italian politicians need to work together with the various European Union institutions in order to come up with a clear and concrete plan of action. Possible solutions could come in the form of agreements with the countries from which the refugees are arriving, such as controlling the surplus of refugees instead of letting the situation digress and allowing too many people on a single boat, a scenario which can turn into a disaster in case of an incident at sea.

To conclude, the Italian refugee crisis is an extremely complex and sensible subject to approach. The problem gets deeper and deeper every time someone tries to explain it, and that is why the refugee crisis of not only Italy, but also of the whole of Europe, is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history. The only possible way to confront this problem in a concrete manner is if the world unites itself, with the richer and more developed countries working together to help the poorer, less developed ones. A lot is being done, but a lot more could be done and if the world continues to neglect this problem the consequences will be devastating in the future due to the fact that this issue has the potential of digressing in such a catastrophic manner to put the survival of the human race at stake.       

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