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The Exploitation of Italian Borders:

Created by: Francesco Sacca

An article form the New York Times tells the story of a Pakistani man who suffered countless difficulties and abuse when trying to find a way from the problems of his homeland. He survived a journey of no less than 18 months across Croatia and Slovenia only to be turned back by Italian guards patrolling the border. The article then goes into detail about the treatment he received by Croatian police, stating that he was beat with “batons wrapped with barbed wire as he lay handcuffed”.

This story, however horrific, is not an isolated incident within the Northern border of Italy. In the year of 2020 alone, it is said that over one thousand people that received this ‘informal return’ upon their arrival at the Italian border.  

This image was taken by Marko Djurica and it is described as a line of migrants waiting in line for food in the northwestern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

While the government of Italy has produced explanations for these “returns” as actions to prevent the spread COVID-19 in Italy, the state in which people are found in when rescued by independent NGOs, qualify as conditions that should not warrant a refusal by Italian border control. This statement is reinforced by more recent events that are discussed in the Ottawa Citizen, which discuss the arrival of NGO vessels in Italy carrying people who were rescued at sea. The article states that Italy “has been instructing them [NGOs] to ports, where authorities allow only vulnerable people to disembark. Italian authorities insist the boats must then return to international waters with those not deemed vulnerable.”. To force these “non vulnerable” people (who have experienced such treacherous conditions in the middle of the Mediterranean sea) to re-enter International waters, should not be an option. It should not be up to the Italian border control (whom all act through the directorate of the Italian government) to decide whether or not all rescued people deserve asylum. This statement is also touched on in the article, as “ships are refusing to leave, saying that under international law all people rescued at sea are vulnerable and entitled to a safe port.”.

Image taken from the Ottawa citizen, taken by Camille Martin Juan.

“The far-right-led government of Premier Giorgia Meloni is insisting that countries whose flag the ships fly take on the migrants, and that the burden shouldn’t fall on Italy alone.”. Should NGOs than be forced to take those who are not qualified as (what the Italian government believe to be) “vulnerable” out of Italy to other countries that are more accepting? The refusal for action and responsibility for lives that are at risk should not be classified as a “burden” as Italian politicians like Meloni have classified them to be.

While the argument of this article has shown how forcefully guarded the borders of Italy have been over recent years, the impact of COVID-19 within Italy has not been minimal. Recent statistics have shown that Italy has had over 23 million cases of COVID-19, that is close to half the entire population of Italy, not to mention the almost 180,000 deaths that have occurred within the country. While there are other nations around the world that have had worse results over the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of this impact on Italy should be an important factor when considering the actions of the Italian government. With that said, these articles have shown that the government of Italy has chosen to utilize these results to further press the resistance/refusal of letting migrants into Italy (even those that are suffering from poor physical or mental conditions). In 2020, according to the Ministry of Health in Italy, during the period of August, less than 5% of those infected with the virus were new immigrants in Italy. In fact, most of the new found cases came from “Italians who had traveled abroad, and many others were foreigners who already lived in Italy and were returning to the country”.

In summary, while there are a various array of explanations given by the Italian government for the refusal of immigrants, the reality is quite cruel. The state in which many of these people are in as they are being turned away is fragile and they should not be treated so reluctantly in the face of such desperation.

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