On 25 February there will be demonstrations across Italy to highlight the difficult situation in which refugees from a number of North African countries have found themselves over the past 18 months. The demonstrations are also to draw the authorities’ attention to the need to support refugees’ integration and inclusion in the country.
The so-called ‘North African Emergency’ provisions expire on 28 February. This is the national programme drawn up to manage the arrival of refugees from the war in Libya and other conflicts in the region.
Melting Pot Europe, an information and advice organization for migrants, is critical of the programme’s failings. In some cases, for example, wholly inadequate accommodation has been provided, either much too small or without hot water.
What’s more, according to Melting Pot Europe, the programme has allowed some individuals to profit from the enormous amount of money allocated (despite rhetoric about a lack of resources for inclusion and other social policies). In short, profiting off the backs of the refugees. According to the weekly paper L’Espresso, the sum involved comes to 1.3bn euros – 46 euros per refugee per day. More than 100m euros has gone to pay for the provision of refugee camps, travel and subsistence and the reimbursement of co-ordinating officials – about 20,000 euros for each person arriving on Italian shores. These funds have represented an excellent business opportunity for small business owners, co-operatives and guesthouses and for those involved in the paperwork and logistics associated with receiving the refugees.
Worse still, though, was the lack of willingness (with some exceptions) of some of the local authorities involved to establish even minimal provision to help refugees become integrated and included: no help in finding accommodation, no help in finding work, no training courses. And the situation has been made even worse (as reported in another article) by the delay of the government in granting residence permits. Many people now find themselves trapped, unable to move on to other places, because they do not have the correct documents. In brief, they become ‘illegals’, an offence which in Italy is punished by deportation.