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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Italy interior Minister Matteo Salvini says migrants 'will only see Italy on a postcard'.

The Arab Spring has not radically changed patterns of migration in the Mediterranean, and the "migration crisis" label does not capture a composite and stratified reality. Ever since the emergence of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, European media and politicians have worried about the prospect of a "tidal wave" of North Africans on Europe. These sensationalist predictions have no scientific basis though !

Migration, in its various forms, has nevertheless played a determining role in the uprisings that have spread across these regions. The lines of vehicles fleeing the besieged cities and villages in Libya, the emigrant workers awaiting repatriation to the detention centers in Egypt and Tunisia, the boats that are stranded on the island of Lampedusa and in which are piled Tunisians and sub-Saharan Africans seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and the return to Cairo of many emigrants and university students who want to join the demonstrations on Tahrir Square, are just a few examples to show how this intersection between human mobility took place and events in North Africa. Some recent migration phenomena cannot be reduced to a simple side effect of revolutions. The potential links between, on the one hand, the reduction of migration possibilities from North Africa to Europe (due to the economic crisis and the intensification of border controls), which is accompanied by disadvantaged young people and deprived of rights of a feeling of exclusion and discontent, and on the other hand, street protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Morocco deserve closer examination.

The largest flow of modern African migration funnels through a single country — Libya. Coming from the south, migrants flee the vestiges of wars that have left entire nations in ruin. From the east, they escape a life of indefinite military servitude and violent conflict. From the west, they evade destitution and governments that arbitrarily jail whomever they please. Some arrive by choice, others by force. But Libya is the purgatory where most migrants prepare to face the deadliest stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.  To understand the reality of Libya's escalating migration crisis, one must weave together the threads of instability left behind by a toppled dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and the power vacuum filled by rivaling factions vying to take his place. The chaos allowed smuggling networks to thrive, suddenly opening up a lucrative market designed to profit off trading humans like other goods and commodities. The country's 1,100-mile coastline has effectively become an open border without government forces to monitor who comes and who goes. Smugglers have filled the void, willing to tightly pack hundreds of migrants at a time into flimsy vessels and shuttle them to Italy.

Migrant crossings through the central Mediterranean jumped by more than four-fold after 2013. Unlike the millions of people forcibly displaced by Syria's brutal five-year civil war, migrants that pass through Libya do so amid a complex web of forces that have uprooted entire generations. For years, broad regions of sub-Saharan Africa have been swallowed by squalor and extreme poverty, crushed under the rule of oppressive governments or caught in the crosshairs of deadly groups that thrive on terror.  ~ but it is never a safe passage !

                 The EU  recently approved  a plan to launch a military operation in the Mediterranean aimed  at crippling the movement of the human-trafficking networks. “This attempt has the goal of limiting the torrents of the illegal immigrants that influx to the EU countries via the Mediterranean on rickety boats and ships, which in most cases have sent them to the bottom of the sea.” An EU source stated. The source added that this military operation will later involve steps that allow it to intercept the smugglers’ boats and ships; however, the EU is still awaiting to be granted the do-so from Libyan authorities.

Nothing more concrete than this .. .. Italy's  interior minister has refused to let a rescue boat with 224 migrants on board dock in Italy, saying those on board 'will only see Italy on a postcard'. Matteo Salvini's latest move to clamp down on arrivals from the Mediterranean comes a week after he turned away another foreign ship, the Aquarius, which was carrying 630 migrants and had to reroute to Spain.  Salvini said the latest ship, operated by German aid group Mission Lifeline, had loaded the migrants in Libyan waters against the instructions of Italy's coast guard.

Mission Lifeline denied Salvini's claims, saying it conducted the rescue in international waters and asked for a safe port, which had not been assigned.  The interior minister, who is urging Malta to take in the Dutch-flagged ship as he pressures European partners to share the burden, said today: 'We cannot take in one more person. On the contrary: We want to send away a few.' Salvini added: 'For the safety of the crew and those rescued we humanly and politically ask Malta to finally open one of its ports, and then seize the ship and its crew.'  He categorically said: 'Italian ports are no longer at the disposal of traffickers.

The Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, took the migrants to Spain, travelling an additional 932 miles, after Italy and Malta refused to let them land. Salvini has likened such rescue ships to taxi services that finish the job for migrant smugglers.  He also has pointed out the failure of other European Union nations to take their share of migrants headed for Europe, a point that Italy will press in forthcoming EU meetings.  Salvini has threatened that Italy will withhold its payments to the EU if it does not get more help on the migrant issue. Italy's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, said the Lifeline remained in Libyan waters and would be seized by Italian authorities if it arrived in Italy. Matteo Salvini has questioned whether the deeply divided EU will survive the events of the coming year. The new populist government in Rome accuses fellow EU members of abandoning Italy as it tries to cope with migrants making the perilous journey from Africa across the Mediterranean.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing domestic pressure on immigration, is seeking deals to send back to Italy and other frontline countries arriving asylum seekers already registered there. Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, has been leading efforts to reduce arrivals from migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.   Some 640,000 migrants have landed in Italy since 2014. The numbers are down dramatically this year, to some 14,500, more than 80 per cent lower than in 2017.  An SWG poll this week showed two-thirds of Italians agree humanitarian boats should not be allowed in the country's ports. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said today his country was ready to start turning away migrants if Berlin and Vienna do so, as Germany's interior minister proposed earlier this week.

Matteo Salvini  was named interior minister after his party struck a deal to form a government with the populist Five Star Movement.   Since Salvini took over the League, nearly 700,000 people have landed in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean, sparking a sense of resentment among many Italians who feel Europe has abandoned them.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd June 2o18.

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