Italy Might Close Its Borders (Unless You're Part of the EU)

In the US, we’re familiar with the issues that arise from an influx of illegal immigrants crossing our Southern border, including those who jump crude boats and make the treacherous trip across open waters from Cuba to Florida seeking a life better than socialism.

And we take a lot of heat for wanting to control that influx, asking those who would immigrate to do so through legal channels to the point that we are developing policies that make it harder for them to stay once they get here. Europeans have tended to view this as a very rich nation showing a basic lack of humanitarian empathy for those worse off and suffering.

Which makes what’s happening in Italy right now fascinating. The Italian government, after rescue ships plucked more than 8000 migrants from the waters between Libya and Italy in a 48 hour period and brought them back to the European mainland, is threatening to close their borders to all migrants, with some reports saying unless they are members of the European Union.

The Italian government has reportedly asked its ambassador in Brussels to request help from the EU in dealing with the latest migration crisis after it was reported authorities are struggling to cope.

Ambassador Maurizio Massari met with the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, yesterday to explain that as a result of thousands of new arrivals Italy is approaching the limit of its capacity. The situation has been described by Massari as “unsustainable”...

It has also been claimed that Italian ports could begin to deny entry to non-EU citizens or EU rescue ships.

Reportedly, more than 73,000 migrants seeking asylum have been rescued off the coast of Libya and brought to Italy this year. 181,000 arrived last year. Rome’s patience is said to be running out. Almost all of the migrants are leaving from Northern Africa via Libya, but many of them are not Libyan nationals. Rather, they are employed in the country yet hail from other parts of the African continent.

With Libya in chaos, most migrants, many who were foreign labourers in the country, tell rescuers they would rather die at sea than continue to live there.

Among the first to be rescued by the Aquarius on its most recent voyage was a young married couple from Nigeria, Elizabeth and Joshua Imetinyan, who had never seen the sea before being shoved onto a rubber boat with over 100 others.

They had been working as domestic helpers in Tripoli before embarking on the journey.

The EU is apparently appealing to Italy not to make good on their threat to shut their borders. But Italy has said that the burden of the migrant crisis needs to be shared more “equitably”  or they might begin blocking foreign NGOs from unloading asylum seekers in Italian ports. Many of those NGOs are humanitarian groups out of Spain, France and Germany.

For all the problems the US has trying to control its immigration crisis, at least we can make our own decisions about the matter without having to consult a bureaucratic cabal of member nations. We are not required to ask permission. Perhaps Italy is beginning to understand how valuable national autonomy is.