The Pope and the Immigrants

You Can’t Win, If You’re a Pope – July 2013
The Pope visits the island of Lampedusa. From a boat he blesses the sea in which so many would-be immigrants have drowned. Already this year 4,000 people have arrived on overcrowded boats from the shores of North Africa, having set off predominantly from Tunisia which is 110 kilometers across the sea,
In 2012 17,352 people applied for asylum in Italy, a drop from 64,779 in 2011. This is sixth in Europe, and in context is not so many, in 2012 589,737 people sought asylum in Germany, 74,598 in the Netherlands, and 21,785 in the UK, fifth highest in Europe.
People enter the country from other places besides Lampedusa, and not all immigrants seek asylum.
all are illegal immigrants and they originate from a big range of countries, some are asylum seekers. Last year 5,166 arrived so this year’s total is expected to exceed last year’s, though possibly not the 2011 total, which was 47,650. Not all of the boats that leave North Africa make it, some sink.
The reception centre at Lampedusa holds 381 people, which obviously means that the authorities need to get people moved out to other places fairly briskly; there are four other reception centres in Italy, none as large as that at Lampedusa. The next biggest is at Caltanissetta in Sicily – some migrant boats arrive in Sicily – with 360 places. The reception centres are supposed to administer first aid to those in need of it and to try and establish peoples’ identities, but because of overcrowding this is not always realistically possible.
The reception centres’ official title translates as Centre for Identification and Deportation, but that is a theory it is totally impossible to implement, given the numbers and frequency of new arrivals.
The mayor of Lampedusa hopes that the visit of the Pope will open the eyes of the world to the problems that Lampedusa is suffering. Some hope mate.
The immigrants who are dispatched to other locations from the ever-filling reception centres, where do they go? Probably there are networks of co-nationals, that the incomers learn about in the reception centres, but that is pure speculation, I have seen no reports of what actually happens.
Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, immigration adviser to the Vatican, says there needs to be humanitarian channels for those seeking asylum in Europe, to inflict a hard blow to those unscrupulous people who traffic others. But he doesn’t say who he thinks should set up or manage those channels. His job, he says, is raise awareness among Catholic Christians, to encourage them to read the situation in the light of the gospels. Unfortunately, he says, politics in the countries of Europe is the child of society. Not much help from him, then.
In some ways it is funny, and in others quite sad, one outcome of the Pope’s visit to Lampedusa. The newspaper Il Messaggero reported on 9 July 2013 on some phone-ins to Radio Padania, a radio station in the north of Italy that is linked to the Lega Nord, the very xenophobic political party that wants, among lots of other familiar-sounding things from xenophobic parties, to split Italy into two countries, north and south.
‘It’s easy enough for him to open the doors of Italy and live in the Vatican’, said Cristina of Bergamo (no h in Cristina in Italian).
‘Why doesn’t he take them to live in the Vatican where there’s lots of room, instead of in Italy where there’s hunger?’, asked Luigi of Milan.
‘I would have expected’, added Giovanna, ‘some words about how they rape and murder’.
‘We shall see the piazza at the Vatican empty this Sunday’, said Laura of Brescia, ‘As a Catholic I am outraged, I have not heard this Pope or any other express concern about the carnage wrought by these people’.
Which is a bit tough on the poor old Pope, it’s hardly his fault that Italy is seeing a massive influx of poor immigrants, and at one level the people phoning in have a point, Italy is facing massive problems with immigration right now, immensely greater than the UK and greater too than Germany though that is primarily because the Germans are organised and the Italians aren’t.
But blaming the Pope for showing compassion and attempting to raise the profile of the issue can only really be described as rather thick. Kind of sick amusing.
Meanwhile, almost every day during this summer another boat arrives, or is rescued from sinking up to fifty miles offshore, containing anything up to five hundred migrants per vessel. Italy is being overwhelmed.
This bloke’s face says it all. Italian beaches, and streets and just about everywhere are awash with African and Asian migrants trying to sell something. An awful job. Notice that the woman he is hoping for a sale from has a well-fed belly. Marina Palmense, Italy.
While at the other end of the country Roma gypsies drive in and cause more urgent problems (for despite the comments about murder, rape, and carnage, there is little evidence of this from Africans, the small amount of murder rape and carnage that exists by immigrants is more likely to be from Eastern Europeans).
How do I know that Africans commit relatively few crimes? Well I do because there is a website, the url of which literally translates as ‘All the Crimes of the Immigrants’.com, where someone, or someones, in Italy collects together stories they find in newspapers online and off- about misdemeanours, riots, or anything else they think is noteworthy relating to immigrants, and reports them, they pick up on dozens of stories daily. It’s kind of the Daily Mail Plus-Plus, in Italian, with a harsh and garish design. Probably would be jumped on by the right-on lot in the UK, but in Italy there are more pressing concerns. I look at it from time to time, I find it quite informative.
I know that Migration Watch UK does daily summaries from the British newspapers about immigration issues, but they’re all rather distant and political, all somewhat out there and arms length, it doesn’t much report on what is happening with the people, daily and on the ground. The all-the-crimes-of-the-immigrants site gives something of a picture of the lives of the people, or some of the people, and oddly in its human-story emphasis it has somewhat the opposite effect from what it is trying to achieve, but then it is Italian, so not so oddly.

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