1. Fragmentation in Italy: a research by More in Common to understand the “conflicted middle”
The portrait of a country which seems more hostile to elites than to migrants, which strongly criticises migration policies but includes hospitality among its fundamental values. In short, fragmentation in Italy: this is the title and the main focus of the research by More in Common (supported by Social Change Initiative and carried out by Ipsos Italia) that identifies as much as seven different segments among the Italian population.
The same research was also conducted in Germany, France and the Netherlands, but neither of these countries showed such a diverse opinion spectrum. Despite widespread views that immigration has had negative effects on Italy, the majority of Italians have feelings of solidarity and empathy towards outsiders, as Antonella Napolitano pointed out last April in her preliminary report about the research.
According to Federico Fubini’s article on the Corriere della Sera: “Italians seem more frustrated with the mismanagement of migration flows than hostile towards newcomers (72% support the principle of asylum, 61% are worried about increasing levels of racism). A remarkable share of public opinion (48%) is neither in favour nor against immigration a priori. […] The vast majority of the population drifts in a bewildered, divided and worried middle.”
This research adds complexity to the narrative about Italy, as Rachel Donadio highlights on the Atlantic: “The study paints a picture of Italy as a fragmented society where the moral impulse to welcome the stranger runs up against economic instability, a sense that the European Union has failed to help Italy contend with nearly half a million immigrants who have arrived in recent years, and a sense among many Italians that they no longer feel at home in their own country.”
Today More in Common is releasing a groundbreaking study of #Italy's attitudes towards #populism, national identity and #immigration, undertaken with @IpsosItalia. Some surprising findings: Italians are pro-migrant and anti-immigration. Here's my key takeouts: /1 pic.twitter.com/ONwYmBEN0e
— Tim Dixon (@dixontim) July 30, 2018
2. The Aquarius is back at sea, better equipped and ready to disobey
New equipment, more supplies, a dignified transport for dead bodies, a public logbook where every movement is registered: the Aquarius ship, operated by SOS Méditerranée together with MSF, left the port of Marseille on August 1. In an open letter that was signed by 500 members of civil society, its crew declared that any orders contradicting the law will be disobeyed from now on. Eleonora Camilli visited the Aquarius in the port of Marseille and described its preparation for this new mission in a completely changed scenario.
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) August 1, 2018
3. The Sarost 5 finally docked in Tunisia
As we reported last week, the 40 migrants aboard the Sarost 5 ship, owned by an oil extraction company, had left Libya on July 11 and had been rescued on July 16, after five days without water or food on a damaged fishing boat. Italy, Malta and Tunisia all refused to receive the vessel in their ports. Migrants have had to wait for two more weeks before being able to dock in Zarzis. The news of their arrival was given by Perrine Massy, a journalist for Radio France International. At the moment, Tunisia does not have any asylum law.
4. An Italian ship obeys Libyan orders and takes a groups of migrants back, even though it is illegal
On July 30, the Asso 28, which is working for an oil drilling platform (operated by Eni), was sailing along the border between the new Libyan Sar and international waters, when the Libyan Coast Guard asked them to rescue 101 migrants on a rubber dinghy. The concerted operation was managed in the same way as when the Italian Navy entrusts commercial vessels with rescue operations, instructing them about their tasks. But there was a huge difference: the Libyan Coast Guard, which even sent one of its officers on the Asso 28, decided to send the migrants back to the country’s infamous detention centres instead of taking them to a safe port – as international laws and the Geneva Conventions (signed by Italy but not by Libya) require. Here lies the ambiguity for the Italian ship that, in order to collaborate with the Libyan Coast Guard, actually participated in a refoulement procedure that is illegal in Italy, thus shedding light on the inherent contradiction of these pushbacks by proxy. The Spanish NGO Open Arms (that rescued 87 people at sea a few days later) was the first to report the incident, which was then confirmed by the owner of the Asso 28. Among others, even Italy’s national Guarantor for the rights of detained persons voiced his concern about this fact.
Lorenzo Cremonesi, who writes for the Corriere della Sera, has spent 48 hours on the Fasan frigate of the Italian Navy. The captain told him that many pushbacks are now carried out directly off the Libyan shores, by preventing the boats from travelling far, and that “the emergency is over”. Nevertheless, should the Fasan find any migrant vessel at sea, it would still rescue them and take them to Italy, the captain said.
Vanessa Tomassini interviewed the captain of patrol boats for the Libyan Coast Guard, Abu Ajila Abdelbari. Despite his colourful way of responding to alleged refoulements, some interesting details emerge from his answers, such as the clear separation between Libyan sea and ground force, which makes it really difficult to track the movements of migrant vessels as they leave. Abu Ajila also mentions the Rada militias, whose position Nancy Porsia described for us in this article. On August 1, ISPI published a new report by Arturo Varvelli and Matteo Villa about the role of militias in the changeable scenario of anti-migration measures in Libya. Meanwhile, although departures seem at a standstill, UNHCR disclosed the number of refugees and asylum seekers registered in Libya: more than 54,000 migrants, 10,000 of whom were registered in 2018 alone.
— UNHCR Libya (@UNHCRLibya) August 5, 2018
5. Sea Watch fulfils all requirements but is not allowed to sail, while 1,500 people have already died in 2018
On Thursday the NGO Sea Watch reported to have been found compliant with regulations after a flag state inspection by the Dutch government, which officially communicated the result to Malta. Nevertheless, the NGO claims that their vessel is still not allowed to leave the island to cruise the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile – in spite of the decrease in arrivals to Italy, as Vita reports – 1,500 people have already died while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2018.
6. Italian Interior minister Salvini reported for diffusing racial ideas
Improving the conditions of African populations, so that migration can be a choice, an opportunity and not a necessity; this is what Mario Raffaelli, president of Amref – an NGO that has been working in Africa for many years – auspicated from the pages of Repubblica, trying to change the meaning of the political slogan “Help them in their own homes”: “helping them in their homes does not mean closing ports and building walls, quite the opposite…”. It is exactly to avoid closed ports and pushbacks that some among the most important Italian humanitarian organisations wrote a letter to the President of the Republic, the government and the Commander-in-chief of the Corps of the Port Captaincies to denounce the “grave violations of international, European and national regulations” allegedly committed by Italian authorities. The letter was also signed by INTERSOS, which has its own representatives on board the Italian military vessels sailing in the Mediterranean.
While in the Chamber of Deputies – after approval by the Senate – the vote on the supply of vessels to Libya will likely be controversial, and is causing strong doubts even among exponents of the Italian Democratic Party, migrants keep arriving in Lampedusa: 135 more people disembarked only in the night between August 2 and 3. As always, minister Salvini voiced his opinion on Twitter: “They wasted money, time and effort; they will be sent back in the upcoming days! You only enter Italy with a permit, good times are over”. These words followed another tweet that led the association Baobab Experience to press charges against the minister for “spreading ideas based on ethnic or racial hate”.
Meanwhile, four people were killed and five wounded in a terrible accident between a truck and a van in the area around Foggia. All the involved people are African migrants working in the tomato harvest; investigations are trying to figure out if they were victims of the so-called “caporalato”, a form of labour exploitation. A second tragic accident happened some hours later.
7. Arci publishes its report on migration and the externalization of borders
Which consequences do we face when we externalise European borders in African countries, intertwining migration issues with development and safety measures? Dangerous things. Sara Prestianni already talked about it here, and a report by Arci covers the same topic, focusing on Sudan, Niger and Tunisia (available in English, French and Italian).
8. The list of migrants who lost their lives disappears from a biennial of art
The renowned updated list of refugees and migrants who died trying to reach Europe disappeared during the night of July 31 from a long wall on Great George Street in Liverpool, where the Biennial of Contemporary Art is taking place. The organisation itself reported the fact the following morning.
We were startled to see the majority of The List removed from Great George Street this Sunday. Did you or anyone you know see something? Do you know why it has been removed?
Help us find out what happened! pic.twitter.com/3yCMoOqFow
— Liverpool Biennial (@Biennial) August 1, 2018
The list, which includes the names and known details of 34,361 migrants and refugees who died within or on the European borders since 1993, is filled out and updated by an anti-discrimination network, United for Intercultural Action, comprising of more than 560 organisations from all over Europe. The Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu, who understood the list’s expressive power, has been working since 2007 to have it translated and exhibited in public places.
9. France adopts a new controversial law on asylum
Despite protests in French society, the reform of the law on asylum was approved by the parliament last Wednesday, with 100 votes in favour and 25 against. The reform was proposed by Collomb and Macron to speed up procedures for the request of international protection, and it represents a de-facto reduction of the asylum right, even though the most controversial part – a drastic reduction in the timeframe to file an appeal against a negative response – was deleted by the Senate on first examination of the draft. Among other things, the new law extends the maximum duration of migrants’ stays in detention centres.
10. Bavaria gets ready for elections by making lives of migrants harder
Immigration is a topic that keeps political behaviours changing in the race towards elections, and as we have witnessed over these past weeks, Germany is not an exception. In the country, decisions made in länder are almost more important than those made at the national level. In Bavaria, where elections are only three months away, border police has been reintroduced after being dissolved since 1998 and the Bavarian office for asylum and border rejection was created – Andrea M. Jarac covered it for Gli Stati Generali.
Cover image via SOS Méditerranée