In Italy, the migrants are getting worse
Supposedly, the European Union has gotten everything all patched up with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who vowed to dispatch the Italian navy to the Tunisian coast if nothing was being done about the huge crush of migrants flooding the Italian island of Lampedusa and now Sicily.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen came to Lampedusa (give her credit for not being Kamala Harris) to present the Italians with the EC's supposedly tough "10 Point Plan" for resolution. The Italians were supposed to gratefully receive it ... which is what you get when you entrust your sovereignty to the EU. It wasn't terribly optimism-giving, but here we are.
On the good side, unlike what Joe Biden and his team have come up with on the border, it didn't gaslight the problem or blame President Trump, so give them that.
But it sure as heck didn't sound like the immediate action Meloni was demanding. Some of it was good, some of it was pure lumbering bureaucracy humbug, and some of it was bound to make the problem worse. The 10 points are here:
- Reinforce the support to Italy by the European Union Asylum Agency (EUAA) and the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex) to manage the high number of migrants to ensure registration of arrivals, fingerprinting, debriefing and referral to the appropriate authorities.
- Support the transfer of people out of Lampedusa, including to other Member States using the voluntary solidarity mechanism and with particular attention to unaccompanied minors and women.
- Step up returns by undertaking a renewed, concerted outreach to the main countries of origin of the new arrivals, namely Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso so as to improve cooperation and facilitate readmission; and increase the support by Frontex, including as regards training and capacity building, to ensure the swift implementation of returns.
- Support the prevention of departures by establishing operational partnerships on anti-smuggling with countries of origin and transit. This includes the possibility of a working arrangement between Tunisia and Frontex, and a coordination task force in Europol to focus on anti-smuggling along the route to Tunisia and onward to Lampedusa.
- Step up border surveillance at sea and aerial surveillance including through Frontex, and explore options to expand naval missions in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, we will speed up supply of equipment and increase training for the Tunisian coast guards and other law enforcement authorities.
- Take measures to limit the use of unseaworthy vessels and take action against the supply chains and logistics of smugglers; and ensure the disabling of recuperated boats and dinghies.
- Increase support by the EUAA to apply swift border and accelerated procedures, including the use of the safe country of origin concept, rejecting applications as manifestly unfounded, issuing entry bans and recording them in the Schengen Information System (SIS).
- Increase awareness and communication campaigns to disincentivise the Mediterranean crossings, while continue working to offer alternatives such as humanitarian admission and legal pathways.
- Step up cooperation with UNHCR and IOM to adopt a comprehensive route-based approach to ensure protection along the route and to increase assisted voluntary return from countries of transit.
- Implement the EU-TU Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and prioritise actions with immediate impact to address the current situation and accelerate the contracting of new projects under the MoU.
Reinforce Frontex, the seabound border guard? Train the Tunisian navy? O.K., we'll see. Even Meloni said that much at the UN yesterday.
Have other member states take the migrants? Good luck with that. According to La Stampa, the French still have the Italian-French border blocked to migrants, it's Italy's problem. And why exactly is not sending them back the first priority? The ten point list mentions "special attention" for women and children migrants but since most of the 7,000 to 10,000 migrants inundating Lampedusa are military-aged young men, the women and children clause would probably involve just a few people. What about the military-aged young men?
Not a word about paying Tunisia its $150 million tribute to stop migrant boats, which the EU agreed to do earlier in a vaunted "Memo of Understanding" with the migrant-dispatching state. It still hasn't written the check, and well, Tunisia wants its payoff.
Some of the items on the list, such as sinking migrant boats after they have disgorged their human cargo, and forcing migrants to wait 180 days in camps, sound somewhat constructive.
But some are the exact opposite of constructive.
Increase legal pathways? These are smuggling operations, not spontaneous human movements based on war and strife driving people out of their homes.
We are seeing reports like these:
AFRICANS FIRE ROCKETS AT ITALIAN POLICE: THEY DEMAND ENTRY INTO SICILY *** pic.twitter.com/tqGk149ivC— The_Real_Fly (@The_Real_Fly) September 18, 2023
That misreads the nature of the problem. These are cartels who sell their "services" to migrants for vast profits of the kind that can fire rockets at Italian police.
Increasing legal pathways into Europe will increase their array of goodies to offer to would-be migrants. That will give the human smugglers more selling points, more options in order to sell their "services." That will increase the migrant flow to greater levels than ever.
We have seen that exact dynamic in recent months with Joe Biden's increased "legal pathways" into the U.S., such as special migrant permissions Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans if they have a sponsor, legal or not, in the states, plus migrant "service centers" for asylum applications up and down Central America on the migrant routes for their convenience, and the CPBOne cell phone app, which reportedly is taking all comers for catch-and-release as they arrive at a port of entry, complete with a distant asylum date and free entry into the states for the wait. All of those increased "legal pathways" have raised immigration numbers to near-record highs, with Eagle Pass, Texas, reporting nearly 9,000 illegal border crossings per day now.
Meloni didn't seem terribly negative about the von der Leyen visit or issue any really tough demands, so best as I can tell, she's going along with their diktats, which is a little puzzling, and locals are reportedly complaining. It may be that that's her best option for now, owing to costs or pending trade deals or other issues. I don't want to judge her yet, as information without a subscription to Italian and U.K. papers is hard to find, but I expected a more confrontational stance given her reputation and earlier calls to action. After their tour and von der Leyen's 10-point plan, the two went to thank the Red Cross, a migrant-enabling NGO that de facto encourages illegal immigration. Color me unimpressed.
The Lampedusa locals, though, were another story. Angry protestors blocked von der Leyen and Meloni's entourage as they toured the island to see the migrant crush. "We're doing everything we can," Meloni reportedly told them, according to Italian news agency ANSA, which sounds a little wretched. According to the U.K. Telegraph, criticism of Meloni is very high.
If so, it's not surprising. The migrant smuggling groups are revving up their operations and there are loopholes in the von der Leyen plan that they are sure to exploit. It comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem between the distant EC bureaucrats in Brussels, and the on the ground reality in Italy, which needs a sovereign response and actual results, including holding its leaders accountable if they fail.
The migrants have no compunctions about creating chaos in someone else's country as they enter illegally with a full entitlement mentality. But it seems the Italian locals are starting to stand up for themselves, too. Unless the EC can bring immediate results, that's a double-sided formula for chaos and a big problem for Meloni. A sovereign violation in reality demands a sovereign response. The EC, which has no skin in the game with regard to Italy's national interests, other than Italy remain a member of the EU bloc, is unlikely to be a suitable substitute.
Image: Twitter screen shot