Overburdened Italy sounds the alarm

"If the only ports where refugees are taken to are Italian, something is wrong," Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said at a meeting with his counterparts in Paris. Italy is threatening to deny foreign ships carrying rescued refugees access to its ports. Can Rome force a change in refugee policy?

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Právo (CZ) /

Refugee crisis still the EU's acid test

Europe urgently needs to reform its refugee policy, Právo believes:

“Angela Merkel promises hope. Opposing her is Emmanuel Macron, and his position is understandable. Italy wants the rescue boats to dock at other Southern European ports, above all in France, for example Marseille. But the city already has a serious problem with the ethnic mix of its population. ... The deal with Turkey shows that a solution is possible. ... If no solution is reached, however, the tensions between Western Europe and Eastern Europe - where refugee quotas are rejected and no one sees any reason to change this stance - will increase. What's more, the strategy of humanitarian aid provided by Frontex and the NGOs must be radically overhauled. The NGOs are not just helping the migrants, they are also doing the smugglers' work for them.”

Huffington Post Italia (IT) /

Stability in North Africa is top priority

The EU can hardly help Italy as long as it continues to ignore the situation in North Africa, Islam expert Umberto De Giovannangeli stresses in Huffington Post Italia:

“Europe has always regarded the southern coast of the Mediterranean as a threat and never as a geopolitically strategic place with which it needs to cooperate. Short-sighted Europe can't manage to focus on what is happening in the North African countries. Instability is growing and becoming ever more explosive in these countries, in particular in Libya. … Flexing one's muscles now, even if it is 'only' with a naval blockade while in Libya more than 200,000 men are fighting under countless commandos is not just risky but colossally idiotic.”

Times of Malta (MT) /

Speak out for the refugees

Malta should become a strong advocate for the desperate, the Times of Malta urges:

“It would not happen without international support, of course, but if Malta decides to proactively support and speak out for life-saving initiatives, the EU's smallest state could become the empathetic eye of Europe. Just as Gandhi had said, by not letting oneself be governed by oppressing attitudes, Malta could serve as the compassionate reminder of the thousands of voices wishing to be saved from the Mediterranean. Having held the presidency of the European Council in the first half of this year, Malta still has the momentum to call for crucial rescue zones in the southern Mediterranean and for more legal ways to get migrants into Europe.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Italy is right - and wrong

The taz is not at all surprised by the threat from Rome:

“At the very latest since 2015 Brussels has been saying that Italy needs to receive more support from the other European countries. But precious little has been done. … This is why Rome has resorted to an ultimatum. Blocking access to Italian ports won't achieve anything. From a medical and humanitarian perspective it would be impossible to force the often overcrowded rescue ships to embark on day-long journeys to France or Spain. So Italy is right and wrong at the same time. It's legitimate that the country wants to push through the repeatedly promised Europeanisation of the process of taking in refugees. But this goal can't be reached at the expense of the refugees and their rescuers.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A lack of safe havens

Italy is in a predicament that began with the fall of Lybian revolutionary leader Gaddafi, Lidové noviny remembers:

“The basic problem is that you can't send refugees rescued in the Mediterranean back to Libya. They can only be brought to a safe haven. Attempts by Germany to find refuge for them in Tunisia or Egypt were rejected by those countries. And Libya hasn't been safe since the days when European bombs helped to topple Gaddafi's regime, nullifying the treaty on refugees which was similar to the one between the EU and Turkey. Western Europe opened the door to this mess and is now powerless to close it again.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Australia could be a role model

Berlingske recommends a European refugee policy modelled on Australia's:

“The lion's share of asylum seekers aren't granted asylum and have to eke out a living as poorly paid illegal farm workers in Southern Europe. ... New large ghettos, intense poverty and an even more fragmented society are the result. Australia stopped immigration from Asia by ruling that no one who has crossed the border illegally will receive a resident's permit. Europe needn't copy Australia's asylum agreement with the states of the Eastern Pacific. But it must make it clear to refugees that they can't force Europe to take them in by climbing aboard a rubber boat.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Unscrupulous threats

Avvenire is appalled by Rome's plans:

“The Italian government cannot and should not threaten to do something it can't and shouldn't do. It would be inconceivable for Italy to suspend and thus violate laws that are not only enshrined in natural law but also stipulated in the precise norms of international legal codes. … Even more inconceivable is Italy going so far as to stop boats full of defenceless people who have just been dragged out of the sea at its ports or on its marine borders. By doing so Italy would run the risk of triggering another humanitarian crisis of unforeseeable dimensions as the world looks on. This would be devastating both for those who fall victim to it for a second time and for those who, from a political and humane point of view, are doubly responsible.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Brussels should listen to alarm bells

La Stampa, on the other hand, says that Italy is right to put the EU pressure in this way:

“The rescuing of refugees by a myriad of NGOs has not only made the life of the smugglers easier without reducing the number of victims (because the rescue operations have caused the flood of refugees to swell). It also renders the criteria that oblige the countries of arrival to take refugees in obsolete. … In 2015 the refugee crisis played out mainly in Greece and on the Balkan route. In 2017 Italy and the Strait of Sicily will be the focal points. … But as happened back then, the pressure won't be confined to the country of arrival but will spread across Europe. The first signs of this are already to be seen on the borders with Switzerland, Austria and France. And the summer has just begun. … Italy sounded the alarm yesterday and Brussels should be grateful to it for doing so.”