All of us still remember quite well the alarming images of the island of Lampedusa in Spring 2011: it was indeed a special year. The Arab Spring had caused a quite important wave of migration and the Italian Government was the champion of inaction: the result had been several thousands of people left alone basically “camping” (in open air and in terrific conditions) on the little island.
On the opposite, the first half of 2012 could be remembered as the negative record for immigration news in the media: national press and tv only exceptionally devote some seconds to the issue. In this lack of information, what is the real situation at the moment?
I’ve searched for relevant data and what I have found is that migrants and asylum seekers are still arriving, although in smaller numbers. From official numbers until April and my reconstruction up to July, in the first 7 months of 2012 around 2700 people have reached the coasts of southern Italy: this means around 1/6 of an average year (i.e. excluding 2011).
Why so few?
Less people are in a condition to leave northern Africa. Most of the third country nationals who were working in Libya left the country during and after the war, either coming to Italy in 2011 or going back home (or anyway back in sub saharan Africa). On the other hand the smugglers’ network has been as well put upside down by the war: it might take some time to re-organise departures.
Though, some of them would still like to leave but do not manage to get till our national waters. In past times, the humanitarian policy of the Italian Government allowed our coast guards and military navy to go and rescue boats of migrants also in international waters: this is not happening any longer, unless it is for helping Libyan or Tunisian authorities in taking them back. This has bad or even exetremely bad results: in the first scenario, people are sent back to the country they left; in the latter, people die while they try to pass the Mediterranean. At least 4 of these cases have been detected by the press in 2012. This is the most silent and horrible scandal ever.
Who are those people arriving?
The overwhelming majority of those who managed to arrive are potential asylum seekers and come from problematic countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, Erythrea, Iran, Syria, Iraq. If the average of women is around 10% of the total, among migrants coming from Afghanistan they are 38.5%: this data supports the idea that most of them would be asylum seekers.
In conclusion, 2012 will probably be remembered as one of the lowest arrival rate years. Media do not speak about arrivals because only scary news (“invasion!”) are worth a first page, neither do they speak about integration issues. Nevertheless, some thousands of asylum seekers are arriving and need protection. Some more hundreds will never arrive because of our negligence in rescuing them. These are high enough numbers: more attention is needed in order to tackle unsolved problems, without alarming attitudes and possibly in a view to find positive solutions for all.
Chiara Tamburini, lawyer and political advisor