Humanity before politics

Good news from Italy. Following a period of political and social closure, new scenarios appear on the horizon. Italy in recent decades has represented a country subjected to huge migratory waves: a lot of statistics have been shared, which often favored a growing situation of unjustified fear in the population. The fear of the different and of a so-called invasions, have favored the creation of movements of thought that have justified some questionable positions of the Italian political component.

A fundamental moment in the discussion on immigration comes at the beginning of August, specifically on the 9th August 2019: the day on which the so-called “Security Decree bis” is approved by the Italian Parliament. The law was wanted by the former Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, in his incessant activity of fighting illegal immigration. The Decree provides numerous points that the President of the italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, has called “critics”.

In particular, this Decree allows the Minister of the Interior, with the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, after notifying the President of the Council, to limit or to prohibit the entry and the transit of ships in the territorial sea for order and public safety reasons. Furthermore, a high pecuniary penalty was introduced. This response by the italian state and the “closed ports” policy have generated considerable discussions: first of all doubts, about compliance with the italian Constitution and international treaties. In relation to the sanctions against ships, in the event of a landing in Italian territorial sea without authorization, according to the President Mattarella, “it does not seem reasonable that no criterion has been introduced which distinguishes the type of ship…or why that persons are received on board and transported”. Furthermore, Italy’s international obligations and agreements must be respected. Let us take, for example, the “Montego Bay Convention”, which prescribes, in the article 98, that ” Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers: (a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost; (b) to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him; (c) after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers and, where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call”.

 Mattarella also warned the Italian government of the risk of violating Article 10 of the italian Constitution and other constitutional provisions. In particular, the first two articles of the Decree in some way reiterate these critical issues: first of all it reaffirms the respect of international law, but as well places prohibitions of access to Italian territorial waters. These bans contrast with international law and with article 10 of the italian Constitution, which imposes the respect of international treaties. Then there is a second problem, linked to another article of the Constitution. The Decree addresses the sensitive issue of public order and security. Article 2 of the Italian Constitution introduces a duty of solidarity, from which derives laws that underlines the obligation to rescue and the crime in the event of omission: The “Security Decree Bis” risks of being in contrast with these. Article 2 of the “Security Decree bis” indicates that the captain of a boat that saves shipwrecked persons can be sanctioned if he enters Italian territorial waters by violating a ban imposed by the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Transport. These sanctions could be considered unconstitutional due to the conflict with the duty of solidarity contained in the Italian constitution. Finally, considering the international law of the sea and the Geneva Convention, Article 33 of the Convention regulates the principle of non-refoulement for the refugee towards the borders of territories in which his life or his freedom are threatened.

In Italy, according to statistics, not only there is no emergency security, but there is not even a real migrant issue: the number of landings has fallen and only a minimal part of arrivals on Italian coasts is via NGOs. In spite of everything, this was the answer: we are not able to put ourselves in the shoes of these people on the run, in transit, in migration from problems that we know exist but that we pretend not to see or even hear. So why violate, or rather betray, the ideals contained in constitutional papers and international treaties?

With the rapid escalation of political events of the past weeks, many things have changed in the Italian political landscape: in the general confusion that characterizes the “Bel Paese”, the players of the game have changed. The question of migrants has come up again. The idea is to change the “Safety Decree bis”, or at least modify it, so as to make Italy a country suitable for social inclusion. Despite this, there are some issues that need to be resolved, like the Alan Kurdi: the German NGO Sea Eye ship, on August 31st, saved 13 people (including 8 minors) in the Mediterranean. To date the ship is prevented from disembarking both in the port of Malta and in Italy: these elements underline that a turnaround is still necessary and due. Despite of political and territorial competences, priority must be given to life and to the respect for it.

The hope is that we can give new life to the acceptance, management and inclusion policy of immigrants and, above all, to a policy of “open ports”. After being harshly criticized and misunderstood, NGOs could return to work without any concern, in full compliance with international agreements that guarantee respect for the person and his rights.