French-Italian governments’ conflict on refugees

This 18 February 2018 video says about itself:

Italy: Protesters rally at French-Italian border in solidarity with refugees

Some 150 activists protested at the Italian-French border town of Ventimiglia, Sunday, to demonstrate against the heavy French police presence in solidarity with migrants.

The protest, organised by left-wing group ‘No Borders’, was entitled ‘We tread [on] the border’ (Calpestiamo il confine). The protesters climbed up the hills to the border fence, repeating the route that a number of migrants have travelled in order to reach France.

According to the report, 13 people died in the mountains attempting to cross the border, which is now separated with a chain fence and barbed wire.

Protester (Italian): “This border is not only represented by this physical frontier, but also what happens everyday in Ventimiglia and nearby areas. We are here to stress the fact that we don’t recognise this border. We don’t consider it as a real border. Freedom of movement for everybody.”

Dutch NOS TV reports today that the French Macron administration has recalled its ambassador from Italy because of conflicts between these two governments.

The right-wing Macron government and the Italian government, a coalition between the extreme right Lega and the ‘neither left nor right’ Five Star Movement, accuse each other viciously. The paradox is that in these accusations by both governments there is some truth, but also much hypocrisy.

The Italian government says that the cause of the refugees trying to cross the Mediteranean is ‘French colonial policy’. That is definitely partly true. Until the 1960s, big parts of Africa were French colonies. Much violence, economic exploitation. With consequences till today. After the 1960s, French colonialism changed to neocolonialism. Though the ex-colonies were now officially independent, French governments kept supporting pro-French local dictators and invading African countries for uranium or other resources every now and then. In 2011, French President Sarkozy was a major instigator of the NATO war on Libya. Because he wanted French oil corporation Total to grab Libyan oil wealth; and because he wanted to cover the tracks of payment of his presidential election campaign by the Libyan Gadaffi administration.

That Libya war never stopped, and led to a country in ruin: healthcare destroyed, women’s rights down the drain, slavery brought back after its 19th century abolition, torture, ISIS, bloodshed everywhere. And from Libya at war, the violence spread to many other African countries. Which led to more French neocolonial invasions and war crimes. And this way, indeed, to more refugees.

So, why is the Italian government not just partly correct, but also hypocritical? Because, like France, Italy has a bloody colonial past and a neocolonial present in Africa. Fascist dictator Mussolini, praised now by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Salvini, and his predecessors caused horrible bloodbaths making Eritrea, Ethiopia and ‘Italian’ Somalia Italian colonies. Mussolini’s soldiers and concentration camps in Libya killed hundreds of thousands.

After Italian colonialism came Italian neocolonialism. Eg, by Silvio Berlusconi, participating in the NATO war on Libya to grab some oil and letting the refugees of that war drown or imprisoning them. And by later Italian governments, with their harsh anti-refugee policies and their handing over of Italian taxpayers’ money to torturers and slave traders in Libya to stop refugees from coming to Italy. So, Italian politicians, like French ones (and US American ones … and British ones … etc.), have definitely contributed to the refugee crisis.

The Macron government in France criticizes the Italian government because of its anti-refugee policy. Again: there is truth in that. But also much hypocrisy.

Because the French government violently attacks refugees in Paris, Calais and elsewhere.

Because the French government violently, including with torture of children, tries to stop refugees from crossing the French-Italian border. European Union or no European Union.

Talking about the European Union: that is another reason for conflict between France and Italy. The Macron administration wants a centralized European Union. The government in Rome wants decentralisation. The logical consequence of centralizing the European Union is: making national borders ‘soft borders’. However, ‘pro-European’ Macron is inconsequent; making the French-Italian border a very ‘hard’ border.

The French National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve President Emmanuel Macron’s “anti-riot” law, undermining the right to protest and further expanding police powers: here.

Naples helping refugees, defying right-wing Italian government

This 3 January 2019 video says about itself:

Naples is ready to defy Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and let in a charity-run ship carrying 32 migrants that is blocked in the stormy Mediterranean, the city mayor said today.

His offer adds to a growing challenge from opposition politicians to Salvini’s far-right League [party], which has vowed to bar migrants and make life difficult for those already here.

Both Italy and Malta are refusing to let the Sea-Watch 3, a ship operated by a German non-governmental organisation (NGO), dock and set down the migrants who were rescued off Libya on Dec. 22. …

Naples’ centre-left mayor Luigi de Magistris said Salvini was playing politics with peoples’ lives. “To leave people and children in the middle of cold and stormy seas is a crime — not simply indecent, immoral and appalling”, de Magistris told Radio Crc. “I hope that this boat approaches the port of Naples because, unlike what the government says, we will launch a rescue operation and we will let it enter the port,” he said.

“I will be the first to lead the rescue.” …

Malta overnight allowed the boat into its waters to sail closer to land where the seas are less choppy, but is refusing to let it dock.

Several local politicians from opposition parties have defied Salvini’s anti-migrant policies. On Wednesday, the mayor of the Sicilian capital Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said he would join other cities in ignoring a new security law because it abolishes asylum protection for many migrants. Salvini on Thursday threatened mayors with legal action. “Anyone who helps clandestine migrants hates Italians. … ” Salvini tweeted. …

On taking office last year, Salvini barred NGO boats and moved to help Libya

Which of the warring governments and paramilitaries in Libya?

prevent people leaving its shores.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

Naples wants to allow migrant ship Sea-Watch 3 in, ‘whatever the government says’

The Italian city of Naples is prepared to admit the ship Sea-Watch 3 to its port and to accommodate the 32 migrants on board. Mayor Luigi de Magistris said on Thursday. He thus expressly opposes the line of the Italian government, which believes that there can be no question of admitting them. …

The ship Sea-Watch 3, sailing under the Dutch flag, has been floating around the Mediterranean for almost two weeks. On 22 December, 22 migrants from countries such as Sudan, Congo and Mali were picked up from the sea off the coast of Libya by the German NGO Sea-Watch, which manages the ship. They have been wandering since then. None of the countries around it wants to let the migrants in. Italy, Spain and Malta keep their ports closed. …

According to the center-left mayor De Magistris, this is an inhumane attitude. “To leave people, including children, in the middle of the cold and stormy sea is not only indecent, immoral and terrible, it’s a crime”, he said in front of the radio. “I hope the ship will come to Naples because, whatever the government says, we will start a rescue operation and allow it in the harbour.” …

Among the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 are seven children: four teenagers without their parents and three small children, including a baby.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Naples wants to allow the ship the Sea-Watch 3 with 32 migrants on board to land. The left-wing mayor of Naples said that. With this he defies the right-wing Italian Interior Minister Salvini, who does not want any migrants at all.

In Italy there is increasing opposition to the harsh anti-immigration policy of Salvini and his right-wing Lega party. Mayors from several large Italian cities have announced that they will not comply with Salvini’s law on security and immigration. …

The Netherlands is said to be willing to allow a maximum of six people in. They would then enter the ordinary asylum procedure, so it would not be certain that they can stay. …

Malta has allowed the Sea-Watch, under pressure from the Netherlands, to shelter close to the coast for a storm that has been going on for days. Many people on board have become seasick. But the ship is not allowed to moor in Malta. …

The Sea-Watch saved the migrants before Christmas in the vicinity of Libya and since then has been trying unsuccessfully to find a port where they are welcome. According to a Sea-Watch spokesperson, they are traumatized and weakened.

Saving drowning people, a crime?

This 13 August 2018 by the (right-wing) Daily Mail from Britain says about itself:

Rescue ship Aquarius saves 141 migrants off Libyan coast

More than 140 migrants rescued by an aid group as they drifted in the Mediterranean have claimed five ships passed them by without plucking them to safety.

According to international law, all ships are obliged to save people at sea in distress.

The migrants, including 67 unaccompanied minors, were mainly from Somalia and Eritrea and were believed to have been at sea for about 35 hours on a small wooden boat that had no motor.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Ship Aquarius stops its Mediterranean rescue missions

The rescue ship Aquarius is no longer operating in the Mediterranean. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who manage the ship together with partner SOS Méditerranée reports this.

Since 2016, tens of thousands of migrants on their way to Europe have been rescued from the water or from often not seaworthy boats.

Ideally, Médecins Sans Frontières would like to continue with the Aquarius, but the organization says that Italy has made it impossible. “The Italian government, supported by other European countries, has labeled our aid as illegal, smeared it and blocked it by withdrawing the registration of the ship, so the Aquarius can not sail.”

So, apparently, the xenophobia of Mussolini-loving Italian deputy Prime Minister Salvini of the extreme right Northern League party is the ‘new normal’ of the European Union.

‘Black day’

Director Nelke Manders of Médecins Sans Frontières calls this a black day. “Stopping the Aquarius means that people will die avoidably at sea”, she says.

The Aquarius was the last rescue ship to sail off the coast of Libya until September. Last year there were five organizations with ships active in that area. The Aquarius has been in the port of Marseille since October, because the ship lost its Panamanian flag registration.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that more than 2000 people drowned in the Mediterranean this year.

There are still ships stopping refugees’ small boats in the Mediterranean. However, these are not the Aquarius or other rescue ships. They are warships of Salvini and his NATO allies. They will either let the refugees drown, contrary to international law; or bring the refugees back to Libya. Back to the Libyan hell of slavery, torture prisons and militias killing each other and civilians.

More than 250 immigrants have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year. The Italian government and European Union’s (EU’s) policies bear direct responsibility for this grim record. Last weekend alone, no fewer than 170 people lost their lives while crossing the Mediterranean. On Saturday, the crew of Sea-Watch 3 managed to rescue 47 immigrants, including eight children, from a shipwrecked boat. The Sea-Watch 3 is currently the only NGO rescue ship still active in the Mediterranean. The Maltese government has refused to allow crews to be changed on another ship, the Professor Albrecht Penck owned by Sea-Eye, effectively preventing it from carrying out its work: here.

Italian filmmaker Bertolucci, RIP

This is a scene of Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1976 film Novecento. Police attack striking workers and poor farmers; as working class women sing ‘La Lega‘.

Another well-known film by Bertolucci is The Last Emperor, on China in the twentieth century.

Bertolucci died on 26 November 2018.