Posted on June 14, 2018

Italy and the Will to Say ‘No!’

Nicholas Farrell, American Renaissance, June 14, 2018

The refusal by Italy’s new “populist” coalition government of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the hard right Lega to allow an NGO vessel with 629 African migrants masquerading as refugees on board to dock in Italy is an historic act.

The global liberal left, which regards mass immigration as crucial to the realization of its dream of creating a multicultural world without borders, is outraged.

French President Emmanuel Macron—the current golden boy in Europe—said on Tuesday that the decision by Italy was “cynical” and “irresponsible.” The spokesman of his party “En Marche!” described it as “nauseating.” Bien pensant liberals across the European continent agreed.

But despite them, Italy’s new populist government is determined to fulfill the pledge to the Italian people made during the election campaign by the leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, who is now interior minister and deputy prime minister in the new government: to stop any more migrants being ferried to Italy by sea from Libya and deport all of the 500,000 arrivals who are not refugees.

Since the first government in Western Europe of what are commonly known as populists was installed in Italy 10 days ago, Mr. Salvini has talked about nothing but the migrant crisis. As a result, the popularity of his party—which got 17.4 percent in the March elections—has shot up in latest opinion polls to over 27 percent, which is very close to its coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, which got more votes than any other party at the elections—32 percent—but whose support has fallen to 30 percent.

In the elections, no single party or coalition got the required 40 percent of the vote to win a majority in Parliament. In the end, Five Star and Lega—sworn enemies that share a hostility to the EU and illegal migrants—struck a deal to form a government.

It is a bit like Bernie Saunders teaming up with Donald Trump, Jean-Luc Mélenchon with Marine Le Pen, or Jeremy Corbyn and UKIP.

Mr. Salvini announced on Sunday that he had refused to allow the NGO vessel—the MV Aquarius operated by SOS Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders and registered in Gibraltar—to dock in Italy. The two NGOs in charge of Aquarius tried to force the hand of the Italian government by saying they had 100 or so minors on board. How did they know, given that all migrants deliberately travel without documents? Did they check their teeth?

June 11, 2018 – ‘Aquarius’ boat which was banned from docking in Italy and Malta. (Credit Image: © Oscar Corral/EFE via ZUMA Press)

This is the first time that an Italian government has refused to allow an NGO rescue ship to dock in Italy since the start of the Mediterranean migrant crisis in 2013. Mr. Salvini said that the Aquarius should go, as maritime law requires, to the nearest safe port, Malta. But Malta, as Malta always does, refused. Now Spain’s new Socialist government, in a perfect piece of left-wing virtue-signalling, has agreed to allow Aquarius to dock in Valencia. It will be interesting to see how many more migrants Spain is prepared to take in from Libya as the summer migrant season begins in earnest.

If a ship founders off the Libyan coast, the nearest safe port is, of course, in Libya or perhaps Tunisia. No one ever wants to go there. The port city of Catania in southeastern Sicily, a favorite destination for migrant “rescue” vessels, is a good 335 miles from the Libyan coast. No one bothers with maritime law when there is a chance to get these people into Europe.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, as amended in 1967, defines a refugee as anyone with “a well founded fear of persecution.” This is so vague it could include anyone outside the developed world. In practice, to qualify for refugee status requires the applicant to come from a war zone.

Nearly all Italy’s boat people come from countries south of the Sahara which are not war zones. And even if they were, the Geneva Convention requires them to seek asylum in the first safe country reached, which means somewhere in Africa—unless all of Africa is regarded as unsafe. Again, no one bothers with the convention.

And so, since 2013 more than 700,000 migrants have been ferried to Italy either by NGO rescue ships or EU naval and coastguard vessels. Nearly all are young men from sub-Saharan Africa and therefore, even according to the UN, few of them are genuine refugees.

And they are not poor. They pay perhaps 1,500 euros each to human traffickers to be packed like sardines into huge rubber inflatables in Libya. They get on these unseaworthy boats because traffickers assure them that as soon as they leave Libya’s 12 mile territorial waters they will be picked up by an NGO or EU rescue vessel and ferried to Italy. Which is the truth, more or less.

At any one time, there are 180,000 migrants who have arrived by sea in Italy living in government-financed hostels and who have applied for asylum. Their applications take at least two years to process. These hostels cost Italian taxpayers 5 billion euros a year. The companies that run them receive 35 euros per day per migrant. It’s big business.

In Italy, only seven out of every 100 applicants for asylum are judged to be genuine refugees. Despite this, hardly anyone gets deported. Last year, Italy deported just 6,340 applicants.

Once their applications are rejected, they just disappear.

Many more migrants don’t even bother to apply for asylum and disappear immediately. Nearly all want to get out of Italy where there is no work and no welfare, and go to countries like Britain, Germany, and Sweden where there is. But in 2015, France abandoned the Schengenborder rules at its frontier with Italy and will not let them through. So unless they can smuggle themselves out in a lorry or by train, or else across the Alps by foot, they are stuck in Italy.

This year alone, French police have turned back more than 10,000 migrants caught trying to cross into France from Italy at the frontier on the Mediterranean coast. Therefore it was no surprise when there was widespread fury across the political divide in Italy at French President Macron’s heavy criticism of the Italian refusal to let the Aquarius dock.

One of Italy’s most popular TV anchormen, Enrico Mentana, wrote on his Facebook page that the “last person, seriously the last person, in the world qualified to give lessons to the Italians about migrant hospitality” is the French President. Compared to him, Italy’s new government is staffed by “romantic utopians,” wrote Mr. Mentana.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Salvini warned that unless Mr. Macron apologizes, Italy’s populist Prime Minister Giuseppe will not attend a mini-summit with the French President in Paris scheduled for Friday. The Italians, like the Greeks who face a similar migrant crisis, are no more “racist” than anyone else, but they are not prepared any more to take in illegal migrants from Libya or allow those already there to stay. Basta!

This is why Mr. Salvini is so popular in Italy. His refusal to allow the Aquarius to dock in Italy exposed at a stroke not just the holier-than-thou hypocrisy of President Macron and the couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude of Malta, but more importantly the Pontius Pilate-like attitude of the EU.

Mr. Salvini was triumphant. “Evidently, politely raising one’s voice pays off, and that’s something the Italian government has not done since time immemorial. We’ve started the discussion at the continental level,” he told a press conference on Monday.

“For the first time a ship which set off from Libya destined for Italy will dock in a different country to Italy,” he added. “If there are other NGO flying foreign flags we will react using the same line of reasoning.”

Or, as he put it more succinctly in a tweet hashtagged #chiudiamoiporti (let’s close the ports): “VITTORIA!”