We have been hearing screams about the ill treatment of illegal immigrants. Denunciations of politicians in Malta and Italy who have to decide on the trade off between the immigrants and their population. But is pushing migrants to a life of squalor what is best for them? Is using migrants as chattels an acceptable solution?
Our media is usually very fast to reproduce reports from foreign sources when the story line fits their narrative. They are especially diligent reporting about the plight of the migrants that keep being pushed on Southern Europe by the militias in Northern Africa.
Our media gives ample space to the groups that, moved by an altruistic fervour are vociferous in protesting against any interference with a free flow.
Late last month, very interesting facts came out of Italy.
Italy has an estimated 600,000 illegal immigrants (if you believe the statistics). These immigrants do not have any rights, can only work in the black economy at very low wages in conditions of slave labour and they live in dilapidated shacks without running water, electricity or windows. This is the liberation and freedom to which the humanitarians have transported these human beings. Now have all these migrants been in war-torn areas and in fear of their lives? Or have most of them been enticed by the procurers with dreams of a European heaven?
Italy is heavily dependent on about 400,000 seasonal migrant workers – cheap labour force – especially in the harvest season.
For some years, Italy depended on Romanian Workers to fill the gap of temporary workers to work in its agricultural sector. Romanians are the largest group of agricultural workers in Italy, numbering around 113,000. Many of these came from Iași, the second largest city in north-eastern Romania near the border to Moldova.
With the Covid-19 crisis, and the restrictions on travel that have been imposed on both sides of the border, this supply of labour dried up and the Italian agricultural sector was in crisis. This measure of the Italian government was not inspired by any will to regularise these migrants or to ensure that they are given humane treatment. It was moved by the pressure from the farmers who could not afford to have their produce rot.
These irregular migrants will be given a temporary work permit of six months. Calculated to suit the needs of the landowners. It is an Italian style “arrangiamo” solution which does not give any rights to the migrants and even less regularises them. What, I ask, will happen when the six months are over and the produce is harvested? Will these migrants continue to be tolerated to live in their squalor?
As some NGOs hailed this as giving dignity to illegal immigrants, others, much more perspicacious declared that a time-limited amnesty is just a patch, an absurdity which gives priority to production over dignity. They ask; How will the workers’ conditions change once the permit is over?
Our media, and their interlocutors in their campaign on illegal immigration did not talk about this. Much less exerted their usual pressures to have these illegal immigrants regularised permanently and given the status and the resources to live a decent life befitting a human being.
I have for years followed the issue of these migrants. I affirm that Europe has irresponsibly shirked from giving any direction or solution and that European Governments have only exploited this situation to their own economic benefit.
I will be asking a number of questions to the humanitarian experts. I will also endeavour to suggest some initiatives that will better serve those who are seeking refuge in unknown mirages.