1. Pope champions migrants in Morocco
As the Central Mediterranean route becomes increasingly deadly, Morocco has become the chief destination for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe.
This might not be common knowledge among the general public, but it is a well-known fact among politicians, as the EU has already begun collaborating with Morocco to curtail the flow of migrants. The visit from Pope Francis, who has spoken repeatedly about refugees and migrants over the years, comes at a time when Morocco is enforcing a crackdown on migrants under pressure from the EU.
“The issue of migration will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others or denying assistance to those who legitimately aspire to a better life for themselves and their families,” Francis said at the welcoming ceremony.
On his journey back, he repeated, “Watching people drown in the Mediterranean doesn’t enter into my heart and my head”.
2. Salvini decree, what changes for refugees and asylum seekers?
Much confusion surrounds what has actually changed for migrants and asylum seekers in Italy after the Salvini decree came into force. End of humanitarian protection, restrictions to the SPRAR system, longer detention times in repatriation centres are only some of the effects of the law that Claudia Torrisi explained for Open Migration.
Infomigrants has collected some of the most common questions raised by the new legislation in attempt to give answers to its readers by interviewing CILD attorney Gennaro Santoro.
3. What the numbers on citizenship in Italy tell us
“With this law, Italy is already the first country in Europe for acquisitions of citizenship, so I don’t think we need to change anything,” Italian interior minister Salvini said recently, addressing the debate on citizenship in the country. Is that actually true?
Pagella Politica has analysed the available data: “In 2017 Italy was the EU country with the highest number of grants of citizenships, followed by the UK (123,106), Germany (115,421) and France (114,274)”.
However, the statistics over the last decade are very different: “From 2006 to 2017, Italy granted citizenship to a total 1,138,120 foreign nationals, while in the same period Germany granted 1,317,796, Spain granted 1,393,999, France granted 1,456,978 and the UK granted 1,941,311 (41.3 more than Italy).
4. Toward the end of Operation Sophia
The largest EU military operation against illegal immigration from the coast of Libya is started to be dismantled. Leaders of member states decided on Wednesday to extend Operation Sophia for 6 months, but without a maritime presence, its most significant component.
The decision will stop the mission from ending abruptly on March 31st, but it will largely limit its functions to the aerial monitoring of the Central Mediterranean. Among the reasons for ending the operation – which was launched in 2015 with the ambitious goal of dismantling migrant smugglers’ networks – a significant role was certainly played by Italy’s refusal to allow rescued migrants to disembark in its ports.
Since the beginning of its operation, Sophia has helped rescue more than 50,000 migrants. Reactions from human rights groups have been harsh. According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, ending the deployment of ships to the Mediterranean means “ceasing the one positive element of Operation Sophia’s work.”, while Amnesty International researcher Matteo de Bellis called it a “shameful” decision which “has nothing to do with the needs of the people who risk their lives at sea“.
5. Lacked of adequate care in Tunisia can cost refugees their lives
After running for two years, escaping Eritrea and near-certain conscription into the country’s army, making it through Sudan, Egypt and Libya, he had reached Tunisia. A few days later, Nato* was transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Sfax, 210km north of Medenine, where he was kept on lockdown and without adequate care, until he decided to end his life. The story of Nato, as written for Al Jazeera by Sara Creta is mirrored by hundreds of similar ones.
“I’m not surprised by what has happened to Nato,” a 16-year-old at the UNHCR facility said. “They just keep us here without providing any support and after we […] witnessed killings of our friends, we feel completely abandoned. We don’t feel secure and protected.“
*not his real name
6. Emigration is the new immigration
Citizens of eastern (Romania, Poland, Hungary) and Southern (Spain, Italy, Greece) European countries are more concerned about the effects of emigration than those of immigration.
The discovery comes from a survey commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations and conducted by YouGov to establish the principal issues of concern ahead of the European parliamentary elections in May.
The six countries where population levels are either flatlining or falling sharply – you can read our in-depth analysis on Italy here – are worried about the popular exodus, whereas in northern and western nations, concerns over immigration far outstripped those over emigration.
As Mark Rice-Oxley and Jennifer Rankin wrote in the Guardian, in some countries, large numbers of people think citizens should be prevented from leaving the country for long periods of time.
7. Teenage migrants accused of hijacking tanker in Malta
Three teenage migrants have been charged with hijacking the El Hiblu 1, which had rescued them off the coast of Libya.
The captain said that rescued migrants had begun to riot and threaten violence when they saw that the ship was returning them to Libya, forcing him to put the vessel on a course toward Europe. One of the accused was identified by the court as a 19-year-old from Guinea. The other two are a 15-year-old from Guinea and a 16-year-old from Ivory Coast. All three suspects pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in Valletta.
Under Maltese law, hijacking a ship is considered an act of terrorism carrying a punishment of between seven years and life in prison.
8. France may not use anti-terrorism measures to send migrants back to Spain
Over the years, In addition to stopping migrants at the Alpine border with Italy, France has been sending border-crossers back to Spain. The Court of Justice of the European Union has now ruled against the system.
France has sent thousands of migrants back to Spain invoking anti-terrorist measures, but the EU judges found that member states who have reintroduced border controls for security reasons cannot use this as an argument to treat an internal border like an external one. It follows that if France wants to expel an irregular migrant from its territory, it needs to strictly follow bilateral agreements or the European Returns Directive.
9. More than one million pains
Refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa are being subjected to horrific and routine sexual violence in Libyan detention centres. While the violence suffered by women and girls along the way from sub-Saharan Africa to Italy has been documented and discussed, less is known about the men and boys who undertake this journey.
A new report from the Women’s Refugee Commission – “More Than One Million Pains”: Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys on the Central Mediterranean Route to Italy – attempts to fill this gap. Drawing from fieldwork in Rome and Sicily, the report sheds light on instances of sexual violence and migrant exploitation, both during the journey along the Central Mediterranean route and upon arrival in Europe. For many, reaching Italy does not mean the end of suffering and exploitation.
Meanwhile, a group of Italian doctors has penned an open letter in the British Medical Journal: over the past six years, the number of agricultural workers who have died as a result of their work is more than 1500.
10. How do you beat the populist narrative on refugees?
With the European Parliament elections only two months away, the far-right populists who built their success on the “refugee crisis” have a clear strategy. The mainstream political parties appear to have given up on any serious efforts to reform asylum and migration policies. The proposals that do still emerge are either irrelevant (10,000 more European Union border guards), undeliverable (“regional disembarkation platforms” in Africa) or empty slogans (“controlled centres” within the E.U.’s borders). What can be done, then, to beat the populist narrative on refugees? John Dalhuisen wrote about it in the New York Times.