The white flag hovers on the barely floating boat, from afar
Destination set, profuse sweat, it’s on the leading stars.
Being thrown, in the middle of the sea, on them, jars
Spending days and nights, hearts racing, eyes left ajar.
Scared of being the sharks’ prey or put behind the bars,
Ignoring that reality would be six feet under-par...
Every year, thousands of Africans take to the sea, dreaming of a job they were deprived of for years, dreaming of fleeing hunger that devoured them and poverty that enriched them in grudge and misery, dreaming of a better tomorrow, dreaming of life. They are gathered in the continent’s northernmost country: Tunisia where ships await them and their fortune to help them illegally immigrate and cross the deadliest sea: the Mediterranean, and land on the forever-saught Lampedusa.
And their Dream Journey gets started…
After a long and terrifying journey through which they saw themselves oscillating between life and death, between complete hopelessness, doom and gloom with every tense wave, and a glimpse of optimism the closer to the shore they get, they, finally, reach the Promised Land that will offer prosperity and wealth. Won’t it?
Around one-third of those migrants don’t get the chance to step into the Heaven they aspired to, as the sea swallowed them deep inside. However, even those who made it never get to see what they fantasized about as it is merely an illusion; a persistent one though.
They are left on this fertile island, hoping for a fertile life ahead. Yet, all they will encounter are problems that are tenfold what they suffered from back in their home country; which, by the way, never felt like home. In fact, the infamous life of immigrants will begin, but, spiced up with being African and undocumented on European soil.
Any Immigrant Injustice?
The Vatican, enclaved in Italy, has a substantial influence in keeping Catholicism present and above all strong in Europe, despite the ongoing Liberation and LGBT movements all over the continent. This leads certain countries to factor in religion when making laws, tighten, thus, the immigration regulations for fear that multiculturalism sets up a tense atmosphere where some minority religions take over and threaten Christianity that has been a fundamental part of the European art and culture.
Italy was, and still is one of the countries whose immigration policies are very strict, for international students and residents let alone trespassers.
In fact, little did they know that their entitlements will be infringed again, but in a new place; of course, their Rights as Human Beings, because authorities don’t even provide them with their basic rights from the very beginning.
Actually, undocumented immigrants’ lives could be analogized to a hide-and-seek game, lifetime-long though. They live in constant fear, from being caught, from being repatriated- not because their life is better in Italy but because they would be deemed ‘a shame’ for not being able to be successful beyond the seas, therefore, a failure in life. But how are they supposed to thrive when they’re remunerated minimally or when their employers refuse to pay them, knowing they could abscond?
They say there [are jobs] in Italy. I came to work, to make a better life. But, in Italy, people suffer, they work and they work and they do not get paid.Baah, a Ghanaian Undocumented Immigrant. Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-migrants-slavery-idUSKCN0WV13U
Illegal immigrants live, indeed, in ghettos; due to social and economic pressure. Impoverished, dirty, home to the most atrocious criminal offenses are the small, yet, dense neighborhoods they are forced to live in. That’s where they feel safe. But do they? Yes, indeed. These areas are somehow out of the Italian government’s control, so they don’t have to hide and can express themselves freely with their like-minded fellows.
But is this horrendous situation solely on the government?
Africans clandestinely living in Europe?
Immigration is the genocide of peoples.Yimer from Ethiopia. Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-migrants-racism-insight-idUSBRE9BL02220131222
If they decided to risk their necks, take their leaves and travel through the blistering Sahara, and the deadly Mediterranean to reach the European southern coast, it’s not because their lives are not valuable, on the contrary, because they’re so invaluable that they want to make them as decent as they never have been. But will they concretely procure a decent life?
Not only do illegal immigrants coming from Africa encounter social injustice inflicted by the government, but they also face racism daily from the people. Many extreme cases have been reported as the government welcomes hateful and xenophobic thoughts in TV shows, in schools, everywhere; a fruit of unmoderated freedom of speech. For instance, many right-wing politicians speeches that are openly delivered to the public on TV or in the radio stations explicitly claim their hate to trespassers and their vision to make their country immigrants-free by repatriating them to where they come from. Such a horrific yet real statement! And people consider such racist acts justifiable.
In fact, with the rising migration flow in Europe, namely Italy (150% over 2019), and the economic recession caused by the global pandemic, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, especially in southern regions. The government, though, implicitly puts the blame on illegal immigrants as those inferior “people”, according to many, are getting their superior fellows’ jobs and making them unemployed. Those thoughts effectively breed an environment of intolerance and lead chauvinism to increase.
Consequently, high-profile hate crimes and racist incidents have never ceased mushrooming across the country for the last 10 years. People of color have always suffered from daily xenophobic violence however minuscule it may seem to be. Italians tend to jump on assuming that they are dangerous savages and criminals. They’re, equally, abused in their workplace, but don’t have a voice as they are afraid to lodge a complaint, thus be the police’s new “Clandestino” prey. They endure hostility, accept extreme humiliation just to work and make enough money to provide food for their families. Do you think they like what they’re facing, knowing that it’s getting worse and worse day after another? Eyes tearing and mouths shut, they caved in the modern form of slavery for they have no other choice. But what for? They hope to be eventually forgiven and taken in charge by the Italian government they never felt welcome in, they hope to be part of the country they have spent their toughest days working in, they hope to become Italian citizens and be given the rights they never acquired. But would that really make any difference? Even if they were naturalized, they would be always deemed second-class citizens, looked upon with an eye full of hatred and hostility implying the famous “Go back to where you come from!”
How is Italy reacting?
Italy as well as the European Union are reacting in a quite controversial way.
On the one hand, they are endeavoring to enhance and strengthen some Immigrants Protection Laws; including a substantial decrease in deportations, especially when the political or economic atmosphere in their countries of origin is neither stable nor favorable for living decently and procuring their vital Human Rights.
Furthermore, The Italian parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee has lately legislated for some major improvements when it comes to Illegal Immigration. In fact, excessively extravagant fines on rescue boats funded by international organizations have been finally scrapped. Usually, for being human and trying to help those who are a hair away from death, Italy instructs very strict punishments; a seizure of the ship and a fine that varies between 150 thousand and 1 million euros, on the grounds that this is a violation of the government’s national laws.
Plus, there had been made an abrogation of the “safe home countries” list, because they have acknowledged that fleeing one’s country is certainly triggered by something, it may not be a civil war that’s the problem but neither unemployment nor poverty makes a country safe due to its known repercussions from political tension to increasing numbers of crimes. All of these new laws build a strong ground for immigrants to finally cease hiding and feel welcomed.
On the other hand, Italy can not bear the thousands of immigrants that arrive at its coasts every year. That’s why screaming for help was essential; how about we dispatched them fairly among the 27 states of the EU? There was no answer: Most European countries, if not all, were against it as a result of the growing anti-immigration movement. Germany, though, started with complying, yet, ceased abiding by the agreement with the multiplying number of undocumented immigrants.
As a result, the government was compelled to act differently; with Tunisian decision-makers and officials this time. After an urgent meeting held with president Kais Said, in August 2020, an Italian diplomat declared the country’s readiness to provide Tunisia with the necessary funds to raise awareness, start attracting young people through various projects and workshops, thus, combat this phenomenon. Tunisia couldn’t either accept or refuse such an offer due to the sanitary crisis and economic collapse. That’s why the two countries will continue negotiating in order to found mutual cooperation in this matter.
Obviously, we have not reached that point where both parties are satisfied yet. Is it really achievable, though?
How would it be if Europeans had to flee their continent seeking some better prospects? How would the world react…?
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of IVolunteer International.
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