Italian Mayor Makes Unfounded Claims

Jon Purizhansky: Italian mayor Susanna Ceccardi claimed that there are “no migrants” in Malta as countries continued to fight over the Mediterranean migrant crisis. She made these comments after countries came to an impasse over which nation would be responsible for 450 saved migrants. Susanna Ceccardi made the claims in front of the Prime Minister of Malta’s home. This claim that there are “no migrants” in Malta took place as the two nations continued their conflict over the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

Susanna Ceccardi, this mayor from the far-right Lega Nord (Northern League) party, made the accusation that Europe was “emptying the barrel of migration onto Italy” as she made her address in front of the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s headquarters, the Auberge de Castille. “Walking around this island’s streets, you won’t see a single migrant,” she mentioned. “I’ve been here one day now and people I spoke to here tell me you won’t see any migrants, simply because Europe has emptied the barrel of migration onto Italy.–We’re now punching our fists at the tables of Europe as well as Rome’s,” she said. This is a poorly thought out stance reflects Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY.

The mayor, who hails from Cascina, asserted that the League’s leader Matteo Salvini was the only one attempting to stop migrants enjoying “the good life” in Italy and she blamed the nation’s left-wing parties for driving the “business” of migration. This occurred within days of Italy and Malta’s deadlock over which nation would be responsible for 450 migrants pulled from the Mediterranean. The migrants were seen near Linosa, an Italian island, and more than 100 miles from Malta. But Salvini refused to let them land, instead directing the boats to Malta. Malta then refused to receive the migrants, claiming the ship was clearly closer to Italy.

Italy’s interior minister, Salvini, has vowed to stand in the way of new refugee boat arrivals, who are rescued by ships from anti-trafficking and border control operations. Salvini has also barred charity rescue ships from landing in Italian ports, asserting that they help human traffickers. This is a patent falsehood, reflects Jon Purizhansky. The number of migrants who have drowned has “skyrocketed” in the past few months due to Italy’s harsher stance. Over six hundred people are assumed to have been killed in the Mediterranean in the past month alone because of this hardened stance.

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Borders are Unempathetic


Across Europe and the Americas, governments have gone to severe extents to halt migration. During a Thanksgiving Day conference with members of the U.S. military, President Donald Trump took his chance to revel in the increased militarization of the U.S.’s southern border in response to the incoming Central American migrant and refugee convoy. Trump stated “We have the concertina fencing and we have things that people don’t even believe. We took the old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barbed wire-plus…

Jon PurizhanskyWe’re fighting for our country. If we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country”. Quite ironically, the U.S.’s ignoring of other nations’ borders is a large part of the reason Central American migration is occurring in the first place, as U.S. political and economic interfering in the region continues to increase violence and poverty. Now, the barbed wire ploy has caused a situation in which thousands of refugees are trapped on the Mexican border awaiting the processing of their cases, with black numbers chalked on their arms as part of a crude tracking system.

This barbed wire scheme has not panned out for some of Trump’s fellow citizens as 32 individuals were recently arrested at a pro-migrant rally on the border, organized by a Quaker group. Time Magazine explains that the demonstration “was meant to launch a national week of action called Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice, which falls between Human Rights Day on December 10 and International Migrants’ Day on December 18.

And as we ring in this year’s International Migrants’ Day right-wing efforts persist to selectively criminalize migration and all those who would sympathize with the plight of those unfortunate enough to have to endure the struggles of a migrant. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the plight of displaced workers and is committed to championing their causes.

On the other side of the globe, European nations are displaying their own borders, as xenophobia and the demonization of the other are useful means of pulling public attention from domestic disorder. Italy is a fine example: a key docking point for migrants from Africa and other regions and a fountain of racist political oratory. During Attilio Fontana’s successful campaign for president of the Lombardy earlier this year, he warned Italian radio viewers about the dangers of immigration: “We must decide whether our ethnicity, our white race, our society should continue to exist or should be erased”. Jon Purizhansky recognizes the toxicity inherent in ideas like these.

French Police Allow Provisional Migrant Campsites

Jon Purizhansky: French officials have vowed to evacuate refugees from other sites after clearing the Porte de la Chapelle and Seine-Saint-Denis area. French authorities have evacuated hundreds of migrants from two sites in Paris this week, just after the government disclosed a series of procedures to a “take back control” of immigration. Roughly 600 policemen ushered the migrants from tents where they were then moved to reception centers, in a process that began under rainfall in the early morning, an AFP news agency reporter notes. The two sites near the Porte de la Chapelle were estimated to hold between 800 and 1,000 migrants.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe noted that his country must “take back control of immigration” and devise clear choices regarding refuge and assimilation. Granting refugees the right to stay in the country, he mentioned in a speech on Wednesday, must be “actively based on our principles and goals”. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the problematic way refugees are being regarded and handled in this scenario. Many of the occupants, much of which were families with children, maintained that they were from Afghanistan or Africa.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said to Al Jazeera that these large-scale operations have occurred before. “Every time, we’re told it won’t happen again, but we need proper processing procedures when people arrive in France in order for them to have their rights respected,” Hidalgo noted. “In camps like these, about 20 percent of people are refugees who are here legally but have not been offered any kind of housing,” she reflected. “There are also homeless families.”

It appears the French government is looking to introduce immigration quotas for laborers in an attempt to address the nation’s skilled labor shortage industry. There are also plans in place to make things more difficult for refugees seeking asylum. Their access to healthcare is going to be restricted and all government services are going to be restricted as well. Jon Purizhansky maintains that these harsh rules need to be re-examined.

During the evacuation this week, Paris police chief Didier Lallement noted that the massive operation, the largest of its kind in years, was “decided in the framework of the implementation of the government plan”. “It did not happen by chance,” he said to reporters. “I will no longer tolerate these installations by the roadside here or anywhere else on public spaces in Paris,” he reflected. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to reign stricter on immigration, a gesture widely regarded as an attempt to keep right-wing parties from stealing votes from him in the forthcoming French elections.

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UN is Abandoning Migrants in Libya

Jon Purizhansky: Over the course of 3 days last fall, Fatima Darboe was forced to witness her 7 year old son slowly die from the very treatable appendicitis. Her son’s stomach expanded as he squirmed in pain. Fatima held her son as he slowly died. Were she in another country other she could have admitted him to a hospital, but she was held captive in a detention center in Libya. She pled with the guards to help her son, yet her cries were ignored.

Her boy died in a car. The Zintan detention center’s director had finally given in and decided to drive the child to a hospital himself. The International Medical Corps, the organization entrusted to provide lifesaving care in the detention center, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM,) the United Nations agencies meant to be providing some additional assistance, were nowhere to be seen.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declined to comment on this incident, while the International Medical Corps failed to respond to multiple requests for comment. In a statement to Foreign Policy, the International Organization for Migration referred to the death as a “stark reminder of the terrible conditions migrants are forced to endure in detention centers” and that it had halted health care in Zintan between October 2018 and January 2019 “due to access issues with the management.” Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY declared the organization’s oversight appalling.

The Libyan community in Zintan, where Fatima and her son were being held, refused the burial of non-Muslim detainees, and her family was Muslim. In spite of this, Fatima’s son wasn’t allowed to be buried until a month after he passed. Fatima and her husband originally hailed from the West African nation Gambia, a very small nation surrounded by Senegal, but they resided in Libya for several years. It was only when her husband fell ill that they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe, in the hope of accessing better health care. Instead, like the many thousands of other migrants, they were apprehended and detained indefinitely in a detention center. This system has been fiercely criticized by former U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.” Jon Purizhansky notes that these detention centers are deplorable.

A few weeks after Fatima’s son was laid to rest, her husband died, too, likely from a stroke triggered by the despair of losing their child. Fatima, who was held in a different women’s hall, was never able to say goodbye to her husband, despite pleading to see her husband in the hours before he died. When she found out he was gone, Fatima said, she fell into severe shock. “I could not talk, I could not do anything. All my body was just shaking,” she said.

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Calls to Reposition Migrants in Europe

“The European Union hasn’t shown enough solidarity with countries handling first arrivals,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday. The established system, he added, was particularly unfair with regards to Italy. Hundreds of migrants made it to Italy and Greece this week, many of whom were travelling by boat from Libya and Turkey. The steep rise in the past few days has led to dilemmas at establishments on Greek islands that have taken in and sheltered arrivals during the determination process. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the EU’s struggle to address the migrant and refugee crisis.

On Lesbos, a structure built to accommodate as many as 3,000 people is currently lodging over 10,000 people. Some other Greek islands, among which are Samos and Kos, are also grappling with the over-abundance of people, the latest data reveals. On Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron held talks in Rome. Shortly afterward, two stated that the EU had to introduce a more equitable system for accommodating migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. Macron reflected that France is ready to help develop the framework to overhaul the existing system. Italy, who has currently been staying ahead of the incoming migrants in the EU, has already chastised other states in the EU for not shouldering their fair share of the responsibility.

The country’s former interior minister and leader of the far right wing League party, Matteo Salvini, regularly blocked charity-run transports carrying migrants from entering Italian ports.

The rescue ships were then forced to wait while EU countries revised settlement agreements. Italy’s new coalition government, which entered office last week, reflected a change of approach to migration after allowing 82 migrants to disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa over the weekend. Thousands of migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean to parts of Europe every year. Those who undertake the journey often travel in poorly run and overcrowded ships, and many have died on their voyage. Jon Purizhansky recognizes the stakes involved here and makes a case for more humane conditions.

Jon Purizhansky: Early this week Turkey, who has been accommodating over 3.6 million Syrians who have fled the nation’s civil war, advised that it would “be forced to open the gates” if it couldn’t get “logistical support” to set up a refugee “safe zone” in Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that as many as 3 million Syrian refugees may return to their country to reside in the north, but that transnational cooperation was required in order for that goal to be met. Several tens of thousands of Syrians have already fled north of Idlib, a province overseen by rebel and jihadist forces, to the Turkish border. Under a 2016 agreement with the European Union, Turkey put in place more stringent controls to abate the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe.

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Welcome, Unwelcome

Central America is only one source of the West’s migrants, and the U.S. is only one of many destinations. Turbulence in Venezuela has also expelled large numbers of people from their homes to find refuge in many other places in the region. Under Maduro’s ever more authoritarian rule, the nation has been plagued by violence and economic turmoil since late 2015. Venezuela now maintains one of the highest murder rates in the world. Ninety percent of the population lives below the poverty line. In 2018 there was nearly 1.7 million percent hyper-inflation. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the need for people to escape such a dire environment.

People fled in increasingly drastic numbers in 2017 when the full weight of the economic crisis began to be felt. Since then, as many as four million Venezuelans, at least 7% of the country’s population, have departed. This is an unprecedented change in the region, arguably beaten only by the period between 1979-1992, when over 25% of El Salvador’s population escaped a civil war. Venezuela’s neighboring nations have responded in quite different ways with Colombia having the most progressive approach of all.

Colombia opened itself up to about 1.5 million Venezuelans and has given them the right to work and receive basic government services. Colombia has recognized Venezuelan immigration as an opportunity for growth, receiving a $31.5 million grant from the World Bank earlier this year, along with additional privileged finance, to extend job opportunities and improved basic services to the migrants and their host communities. Jon Purizhansky maintains that we need more countries to adopt approaches like these if we are going to meaningfully address the current migrant crisis.

Colombia’s government refuses to call these Venezuelans refugees, since doing so might worsen a bureaucratic logjam in the asylum system and jeopardize a political backlash in a country where anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing in its border regions. Other nations have been less welcoming than Colombia. Peru initially opened its borders, allowing Venezuelans to apply for short-term visits or for asylum and, from early 2017 to late 2018, offering Venezuelan migrants momentary access to work, education, and banking services.

Jon Purizhansky: But by the end of 2018, Peru adjourned that policy after concerns were raised that it was creating an incentive for more Venezuelans to travel there. In 2017, Brazil began offering Venezuelan migrants two year residency visas and extended all asylum seekers from Venezuela access to work permits and basic services. However, Brazil has also tried, with little success, to execute an internal relocation scheme. As a result of this around 5,000 Venezuelans in the border area have been transferred to seventeen other states across the nation. Ecuador at first welcomed fleeing Venezuelans but eventually enacted stricter border controls in August 2018.

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The Misleading Definitions of Refugee and Migrant

The migrant crisis in North and South America, not unlike the European crisis before it, has brought into question the practicality of long-used terms like “refugee” and “economic migrant.” The United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention defined a refugee as a person who has “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” In the 1980 Refugee Act, Congress consecrated that description in U.S. law as well. However, the 1951 definition was created to address the ferments of the early Cold War, especially the emigration of Soviet protestors. These days most migrants aren’t fleeing authoritative regimes that are out to get them. Nor are they merely seeking better economic opportunities. Rather, they are fleeing from states that have collapsed or that are so brittle that life has become unbearable for their citizens. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the problems inherent in adhering to outdated terminology.

What Europe witnessed in 2015 and what much of the Americas are experiencing today are not simply refugee currents or market-driven population drifts but rather migration for the sole purpose of survival. From 2003-2010, roughly two million people from Zimbabwe fled to South Africa and other proximal states. Many of them sought to escape inflation, bandits, and food scarcity, namely, the economic consequences of the elemental political situation, as opposed to explicit political persecution. Because most of these migrants could neither be described as either refugees or economic migrants, humanitarian aid surrounding the crisis was hindered. Jon Purizhansky maintains that these outdated conventions and definitions need to be re-examined.

A great number of the migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015, chiefly those from Syria, were undeniably refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Other refugees, including some Kosovars and Albanians who used the Balkan paths toward Germany along with the Syrians, were simply economic migrants. But large numbers of those traversing the Aegean were escaping delicate states such as Iraq and Afghanistan. European governments were mostly unsure of how to label these migrants. In the first few months of 2019, 46% of Iraqi asylum seekers were recognized in Germany, compared with 13% in the UK.

Jon Purizhansky : Petitioners from failed or delicate Middle Eastern or sub-Saharan African countries faced, and continue to face, a recognition lottery of sorts whose outcome depends on whether judges and bureaucrats are prepared to reconcile today’s circumstances with Cold War categories. However, few European governments had any desire to abandon the old language and categories. Governments led by right-of-center parties didn’t wish to risk exposing themselves to possibly increased obligations and those led by left-of-center parties didn’t wish to risk threatening the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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