Earlier this month I spent a week in Sicily, driving south from Palermo to Agrigento, then east to Syracuse and Messina. It was my first visit to Sicily in 17 years and, given media reports, I expected to find the island crowded with migrants from Africa. In fact, I didn’t see any, apart from those I glimpsed in a fenced-off processing center on the quayside of Agrigento, the first port of call for many migrants arriving in Sicily.
Last week, the local Agrigento newspaper drew on official government figures to reveal that so far in 2022, 45,664 migrants have landed on Italian territory, a 40% increase on the same period last year. Just under half of that number (46%) were brought ashore by Italian Navy vessels or NGO boats, such as the Ocean Viking, which I saw docked in Syracuse. The others traveled to Italy by other means.
Among the migrants arriving on Italian soil, the largest proportion comes from Tunisia (20.5%), Egypt (19.3%) and Bangladesh (16.7%). This year’s arrivals have swelled the number of migrants in what Italians call the SAI (Accommodation and Integration System) network to 95,184, a 23.9% increase from 2021.
One can only marvel at the compassion and patience of Italians who, as Nicholas Farrell said in the magazine this week, have seen an estimated 750,000 migrants arrive on their shores since 2015. The same goodwill does not s doesn’t extend to the EU, as Giorgia Meloni explained to Farrell. “Europe must reach an agreement to stop departures and open hotspots in Libya to process asylum applications and fairly distribute across Europe only genuine refugees,” said the woman tipped to become the next prime minister. Italian. “Borders only exist if you defend them. Otherwise, they don’t exist.
A similar argument is being made by some politicians and commentators in Britain, exasperated by the growing number of migrants arriving in England from France. According to the BBC, around 20,000 have made the crossing so far this year, an indication that 2022 will be a record year for people entering the country illegally. France bears the brunt of British anger at the situation; they retort that it is impossible to patrol hundreds of kilometers of coastline and that they are also struggling to control their border with Italy. It is estimated that there are between 736,000 and 900,000 illegal immigrants in France, depending on the figures you believe.
Earlier this month, center-right Republican MP for the city of Nice, Eric Ciotti, said
Le Figaro that the previous week 1,000 migrants had been detained at the Franco-Italian border. “The situation is no longer bearable,” said Ciotti, who links the migrant crisis to a deteriorating social situation in France. “There is a rise in communitarianism and delinquency. Foreigners are overrepresented in criminal acts. It is therefore necessary to limit the influx of foreigners and facilitate their expulsion.
Such rhetoric enrages the left but government figures confirm Ciotti’s assertion: in 2021 there were 17,198 foreign nationals in French prisons, 24.5% of the total population, of which the largest proportion (9,793 ) comes from Africa. Of the French population as a whole, 7% are foreigners. The left rightly argues that there is likely to be discrimination in the police and that immigrants are essential to the workforce, especially when it comes to heavy manual work. Paris is increasingly becoming one giant construction site as the city prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, and most of the men I see at work are from Africa or Eastern Europe. .
I wrote about a similar phenomenon in 2020 when France suffered two oppressive lockdowns; a disproportionate number of people who kept Paris alive by cleaning the streets, emptying trash cans and manning store checkouts were immigrants, and France is increasingly looking to foreigners to fill the alarming shortage of medical personnel .
Most French people understand and appreciate this, which is why Eric Zemmour’s presidential campaign bombed so badly; he wanted to stop all immigration to France, legal or not. A France deprived of its working immigrant population would come to a standstill in a week. The argument of the right – Zemmour aside – is that immigration is necessary but in smaller numbers and with better regulation. This is the heart of the immigration bill which will be presented to parliament in the fall by interior minister Gérald Darmanin. That he encounters opposition from the left goes without saying; already media leaning in that direction have called it “controversial.”
The bill would make it easier to deport foreigners who commit crimes by speeding up the process, including removing some of the legal provisions that have hitherto made it difficult to deport transgressing migrants. In addition, the bill would only grant residence permits to applicants who would obtain a certificate “proving mastery of the French language and adherence to the values of the Republic”. Darmanin also raised the idea of introducing “quotas by profession or sectors suffering from labor shortages”, an idea that Meloni also plans to implement if she becomes Prime Minister of Italy in the elections. General next month.
In June, interior ministers from five EU countries – Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain – expressed concern that in the coming months more Africans will try to cross the Mediterranean, as the grain shortage caused by the war in Ukraine begins. to bite.
Statistics from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard agency, indicate that this is already happening: in the first six months of 2022, there were 114,720 irregular entries into the European Union, an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year. Frontex said people fleeing the war in Ukraine were not among those detected entries.
Migrants will arrive on a continent in the throes of its own economic crisis with millions of Europeans struggling to feed themselves and heat themselves. The era of political procrastination is over, and if the current generation of presidents and prime ministers aren’t prepared to defend their countries’ borders, voters will likely turn to those who are.