Italy Reflects on Immigration After Lampedusa Deaths

Italy and Europe face unprecedented immigration challenges after the Lampedusa deaths.

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Credit: The Guardian

On October 3, 2013, the 368 bodies laid out on the wharf at Lampedusa marked a watershed in the history of immigration — in the Mediterranean and perhaps even the world.

After that day, there would always be “before” and “after” October 3, 2013, just as with the birth of Christ.

In fact, after that date, there was also a huge change in the type as well as the numbers of migrants heading to Europe. The majority were no longer young people looking to enter Europe illegally. Instead large flows of asylum seekers from war zones started arriving. This point is crucial, seeing as the former can be sent back home. But the latter must, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, be received.

However, the data has to be seen to be believed. In particular, the figures published by Le Monde a few days ago: in 2014, compared to the previous year, while the number of immigrants who tried to reach Europe has doubled, the number of deaths has quadrupled. All told, since 2014, 130,000 migrants have arrived on Italy’s shores and 2,400 have died while trying to get here. These migrants come predominantly from Eritrea, Syria, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, etc: war zones rather than areas of poverty.

These unprecedented figures have literally brought the immigration policies of Italy and Europe to their knees. The dense cloud of political nervousness that surrounds EU parliaments is proof of this. From Rome to Stockholm, politicians are speechless and afraid — of a phenomenon that is absolutely the formidable detonator of globalization processes. Because, unlike interest rates, we can see immigration. We feel that it invades our territory, our space and everyday life.

The truth is that we are witnessing, with many declarations and few ideas, a sudden and fundamental metamorphosis of international population movements. To understand this new reality, observing through a different lens could be a good starting point.

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Giuseppe Terranova is deputy editor of the online newspaper West. He has a PhD in politics and comparative law of the euro-Mediterranean region, from Università Kore in Enna, Italy. As an expert on immigration policies, he is a member of the European Centre for International Affairs in Brussels and assistant professor at the department for sustainable development (working with Prof. A Giordano) at Luiss University of Rome. Read other articles by Giuseppe.