EU law says that asylum-seekers should seek asylum in the country in which they land first. The result of this law is an overwhelming number of people streaming into Italy, sailing from ports in North Africa and Southwest Asia.
The word “sailing” perhaps does not encapsulate the horrid conditions to which he immigrants are subjecting themselves—often the tales that we hear from Italy of boats sinking are those carrying immigrants. Most recently, over three hundred immigrants were reported missing or dead at once, after four ships left Libya in the hopes of reaching Europe. Over one hundred of the immigrants were saved by Italy’s Mare Nostrum, an organization that handles rescues farther from shore (since Italy’s Coast Guard is too far to respond to most of these crises).
These deaths are a small snippet of a larger immigrant movement, in which over 170,000 immigrants arrived in Italy in 2014 . Conflicts in countries such as Syria and Libya have caused mass refugee movement. Whatever Europeans may think of their struggling economies, a life in Europe is far better than the current lawlessness in Syria.
Italy may have been more welcoming of these immigrants previously, but as a nation still struggling under the effects of the recession (especially in comparison to other nations in the EU), Italians are feeling less charitable. The Italian media has seized upon these ships arriving as an invasion. Right-wing sentiments in Italy have increased as well. Eighty-percent of Italians want fewer immigrants in the country. But these sentiments are not leading to direct action yet, with only six percent of the vote going to the League, Italy’s anti-immigrant political party .
Italy’s racism comes to international attention during soccer matches, when soccer players are subject to degrading insults on the field. In light of a rapidly changing population, Italy simply has to educate its population better on being a society with immigrants, from the top down (after all, it was Prime Minister Berlusconi who said that President Obama was “young, handsome, and suntanned” in 2008) .