Human trafficking: 6 Illegal migration: 2 Rights: 0

Italy´s PM, Matteo Renzi – who is also the Secretary of the center-left party Partito Democratico – published an editorial on the NYTimes on April 22nd.
I believe that nobody will be crossed if I say that his words have not moved the discussion or the solution to the problems by a single cm (or inch if you like).
Here follow my comments on the main points of the article, summarized by considering among many things the 10-points-plan, as released after the Joint Meeting of Foreign and Interior Ministers of April 20th. Press release

Counting words sometimes help. If you are looking for a general tone of the op-ed, well be assured that traffick(-ers)ing (6) or illegal migration (2) are much handier concepts, which the PM uses to describe the priorities to tackle. Though talking about carnage and tragedy in the opening lines, there is no reference to the legal status the migrants shall or could be granted under the international conventions on the matter.
As if with the erasure of traffickers, migration would stop. If you are a fan of political economy, you can call it a market failure bias.

Let´s talk money
Renzi mentions the fact that EU´s funding of its current operations is not enough and that we are all “partially responsible”. At the same time others should also contribute. In its logic there is a sort of parodic domino effect: Italy engages its full capacity, though Mare Nostrum got cancelled after few months. EU is not doing enough, but the UN should jump in asap.

Summarizing a general plan
The PM´s proposals are a condensed version of the plan presented two days earlier (see above for link).
What does “a more effective mandate” for current EU operations mean in practice? The legal status of Triton/Frontex appears NOT to be on the way to be questioned/amended any time soon – read this article by Politico, among others – so the question mark remains. The stress put on “destroy vessels”, thus a military, Atalanta-like option comes straight after mentioning the reinforcement of current EU operations. As of today they are mostly security, border controls and patrolling activities.
“New tools and additional resources” to tackle asylum requests underline an alarming lack of substantial understanding of the fact that the soaring wave of migrants would require a fast-track response.

Libya: the challenge
Italy, as a former colonial power and a current big investor in oil and gas extraction, calls for a “continuation of political and diplomatic efforts” for the reconstruction of the country. The truth is that it has no idea on what should be done and acts accordingly, i.e. awaits.

Notes on Renzi article on NYTSubtext
The biggest question mark remains a single sentence, thrown in between  lines as a sort of trompe-l´œil: “Not all passengers on traffickers´ boat are innocent families”. What do you mean by that, dear Matteo?
Uno: a concession to your Interior Minister, a gentleman looking for the fastest way possible to bomb the vessels, according to his latest press statements.
Due: tautology. As in every cluster of human beings, you have those who would have stolen their mates´ snack at school- well if they ever had one in the war zones they lived so far.
Tre: dear readers, in case you were wondering, I think that traffickers are evil and manage to board the most dangerous terrorists in crappy boats with a substantial chance to capsize and shrink. Terrorists are both fatalists and great swimmers!

All in all there is a depressing lack of vision; though the PM is not the first  politician overwhelmed by the gigantic challenge that migration poses. Still, his persona does not concede for this sort of acknowledgments.
As the op-ed has been written by the one person calling up today´s EU summit, well you gather that the chances for an improvement in the overall capacity of the EU to save lives are very low.
On the other side the chances of seeing vessels and air-attacks on boats on the coast of Libya is on the rise.
The bombing from two years ago taught us nothing, the latest tragedy will have soon also experienced a similar fate.

A first take on the lessons to learn from the latest tragedy

The complex issue of migration to the EU with the tragic growing number of deaths over the Mediterranean sea cries for a discussion which shall be both more focused on the disaster in terms of human beings died and also more centred on the driving forces behind the decision of thousands of migrants of risking anything to flee their homes.

In the days following the latest and so far biggest tragedy German and Italian media outfits developed a rather different approach.

The general sense is that in Germany journalists and media houses follow the development of events but also put those issues in a wider context;  the role of national and European institutions, the situation in the countries of origin,  the concept that there is a tragedy behind risking everything over the most dangerous migration route nowadays are also integrated in the editorial and articles of the online editions. Here follow two examples.

In Italy there has been a tendency to a rather petty description of events: what happened on that boat, how many smugglers were captured this one time, how evil they are. But if you are looking for a word about Syria for instance, well you will not find it so easily.  Repubblica
There are nevertheless stories about the dire condition of prisoning migrants undergo in Libya, as for example on this article by Corriere della Sera. Sadly enough it looks very likely that in a week from now – provided that no more tragedy happens – even this kind of reports will disappear.

What looks a bit astonishing in the Italian media is the absence of a critical take on the government´s position, which is oscillating between the acknowledgment of the major role in rescuing the few survivors – with a hint of pride – and the invocation of  “Europe” to fix the problem – with a suggestion of military intervention.Are these attitudes also depending on the kind of political discussion at the national level? Probably to some extent yes, though I doubt that this could be the main explanation. At the end of the day even press releases and statements from Brussels are treated in very different ways. But this will be discussed in a later post in the next days.
A special mention goes to the editorial of La Stampa´s director and the  attempt this journal makes by showing the enduring courage migrants in risking everything through the photos by Piscitelli, a photographer following migrants´ routes since years.

Italy: Number of migrants steadily high – policy silent

News about migrants and refugees have not been playing a major role in the Italian news this week so far, although data about the people numbers having reached the shores of Sicily since January  show a high trend of arrivals.

Around 15.000 persons arrived by boat since the beginning of 2015, an additional 3500 were rescued by the Italian and European navy.

News in Italy concentrate on secondary criminal aspects of  migration related events: a refugee dies on the boat and is thrown into water by the others, for instance, though it must be noticed that the articles refer of him as “being thrown into sharks´ mouth”. Or alternatively, an alleged Lybyan navy boat fired a refugee boat and soon after went back to Lybyan water. Notice here that some rumours about a connection between ISIS terrorists in Lybya and boat of refugees have been highlighted by some newspapers in the last weeks, altough the Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclaimed on different occasions the existence of proof of this allegation.

An article by the online edition of La Stampa puts into context the silence of many politicians about the arrivals quoting the upcoming regional elections in Italy as one main reason for downplaying the necessary steps expected for welcoming the refugees.

Few links on the topic


NYTimes (EN)

La Stampa 1 (IT)

La Stampa 2 (IT)

Corriere (IT)


Italian Media on the 1500 arrivals in Lampedusa: an example of indifference

A clear-cut example on how the Italian media react to migration-related news lately is the one regarding the arrival of around 1.500 migrants to Sicily in less than 24 hours last week. The media become more and more indifferent to the issue “Migration from Libya to Sicily” unless the tragedy is both large in numbers and stands out as a sort of exceptional event.
You could find only short reports, most of which focusing on which military vessel saved how many refugees. In most cases on the day of event, this piece of news did not even make in the top headlines, at any point of the day in question. In a portal as visited as the one of “la Repubblica” it did not appear at all in the main page. Examples on the approach stressing military information and avoiding detailed information regarding the migrants follow here:
La Stampa
Libero Quotidiano
Corriere della Sera
la Repubblica

Surging fear and lowering engagement in Italy

Back in Italy since Thursday March 26, shortly watched TV around lunch time (one of the best time slots in term of audience in daytime) and learnt that according to new polls, Italians now fear terrorism much more than 3 months ago. Due to the Paris attack, the situation in Lybia and the latest attack in Tunisia, I gather. I have been looking for back up data online but cannot find them yet.

Surely, there is a general absence of analysis on long term causes of this surge of fear; at the same time the acceleration with which terrorism-related events reach the hot spot of news broadcasts ( and no more than 72 hours later disappear) is a phenonemon sui generis,  since the attitude (that the problem is external and thus less dependent on the direct engagagement of the country in the first place) permeates comments.

There are rumours of ISIS Lybia financing its activities through the racket of immigration to Italy. Ansa. Each article is full of perhaps. How tempting such a grand narrative must be for some!