Everyday during summer, hundreds of migrants arrived by Africa in the south of Europe. Last summer more than 20.000 irregular migrants arrived in Sicily, risking their lives on a very dangerous journey with the hope of a better life in a country without war and violence.
The journey is terrible, because the migrants travel with very old ships and the voyage is often organized by a criminal network, to whom desperate emigrants often pay their lifesavings for the chance to leave their countries.
But for many immigrants, the journey ends before their arrival in Europe. In fact , because of the terrible conditions of the ship and the lack of food and water, many of them die during the voyage. The highest mortality rates are amongst the especially the women and children.
For those fortunate enough to arrive in Europe, the ordeal is still not over. Indeed the restrictive migration laws of European countries, such as Italy, do not allow the permanent residency of migrants in the country except if they asylum seekers or refugees with particular profiles. For this reason, not only are most denied residency permits, but many migrants seeking a better future are closed in detention centers that are really similar to prisons.
After a period of detention there are two possibilities for migrants before being repatriated: the first is to seek recognition under the status of refugee or asylum seeker (and only a small number of those who makes the request is accepted), while the second is try to escape.
Migrants that escape the detention centers can not hope to find a regular job, so they end up employed in the black market without guarantees and rights, and subject to exploitation.
Many other migrants, not being able to find a regular job, are attracted by illegal activities such as drug dealing , theft and sale of counterfeit products. If these migrants are arrested by the police, they are immediately repatriated.
The situation is terrible and the international authorities have the responsibility of seeking improvement. I think we need a strong intervention by the European Union and by the UN to regularize the migration processes in order to prevent the tragedies that take place every summer in the Mediterrian Sea.
The phenomena of which I have spoken is an offense to human dignity, and as such we cannot accept it. The governments must stop viewing migrants illegal numbers, and instead consider that they are men and women with intrinsic dignity and with fundamental rights. It is only with this perspective that people can be seen as resources and not as problems.
By Antonio Verde, a WYA member from Sicily and an intern in the North American office