Experiences

Migrants: walls are not the solution

First it was Lampedusa, then Lesbos; the Mediterranean turned into a cemetery; Syrians fleeing war; Central Africans seeking the Italian coasts from Libya... Migratory flows multiply, and meet walls. "Walls are not the solution. The problem remains with more hatred"Pope Francis affirms.

Rafael Miner-December 28, 2016-Reading time: 8 minutes

The process of dismantling the refugee camp in Calais (France), where thousands of immigrants wishing to reach the United Kingdom have been staying, has been in the news these days.

Many have been redistributed in reception centers scattered throughout France, although around two thousand, many of them minors, preferred to stay as long as possible to try to reach Great Britain, where they claim to have relatives they do not know if they will ever be able to see and embrace in their lifetime.

Most analysts consider that this is just another patch in the face of an issue of enormous magnitude, such as migration flows, which is truly multifaceted, but which involves hundreds of thousands of people - millions if the figures for years are added up - who are desperate to reach a better, more dignified future and escape from extreme poverty.

The numbers are stubborn. From January to early October of this year 2016, in just over nine months, more than three hundred thousand migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean; almost 170,000 via Greece, and 130,000 via Italy, and more than 3,500 people have drowned or gone missing. At the time of publication of this issue of WordThe figure may be as high as 4,000.

Just a few days ago, the Hellenic country, immersed in a major economic and financial crisis, has requested urgent assistance to care for 60,000 refugees who have been trapped in their country following the closure of the borders by the pact between the European Union and Turkey. "We need blankets now", says the Greek government.

Lampedusa

Since he was elected to take the helm of Peter's boat, Pope Francis has been closely following the drama of immigration.

He showed this in July 2013, when he arranged for his first official trip to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, of barely five thousand inhabitants, known for the continuous disembarkation of immigrants, and for countless shipwrecks.

There, the Holy Father struck hearts and referred almost for the first time to a phenomenon that would make the world reflect: the "....globalization of indifference"."Who among us has wept for the death of these brothers and sisters, of all those who traveled on the boats, for the young mothers who carried their children, for these men who sought anything to support their families?". "We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping... The illusion of the insignificant, of the provisional, leads us to indifference towards others, leads us to the globalization of indifference.", said the Pope.

"Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers? No one. Today no one feels responsible, we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility, we have fallen into hypocritical behavior.".

Children in human degradation

Three years later, on October 13, Pope Francis has made public the ".Message for the annual Migrant and Refugee Day 2017".in which he denounces that "migrant children end up at the bottom of human degradation". The specific title of your message is "Underage migrants, vulnerable and without voice". The text warns in particular of the serious risk for those who travel alone, and calls for their "right to play".

The Holy Father's speech took place on the very day that humanitarian associations and NGOs reported the disappearance of about ten thousand immigrant minors after arriving in Europe.

In Italy alone, 16,800 unaccompanied minors have arrived from Libya so far this year: they end up living on the streets, disappearing, as Francis cried out. Only the most fortunate, or the smallest, are taken in by families.

The Pope criticized that "instead of favoring the social integration of migrant children, or safe and assisted repatriation programs, the aim is only to prevent their entry, thus benefiting the use of illegal networks.".

The media reports that since the European Union signed the agreement with Turkey, the arrival of Syrians, and also of other migrants from other Middle Eastern countries, across the Aegean Sea has decreased.

But Libya has taken over. Migrants are arriving in waves from other African countries, fleeing hunger, thirst, poverty and war. And the natural departure is to Italy.

Controversial walls

The question now could focus on analyzing whether initiatives are beginning to emerge that support in some way, even if only partially, the Holy Father's appeals.

It is true that the European Union has begun to sign agreements with several African countries - Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia - as we shall see shortly. However, the intense activity in the construction of fences and walls, or at least in their announcement, in order to avoid the "pull" effects, does not invite optimism.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Republican candidate Donald Trump, in the final stretch of the campaign, reiterated the promise that has upset the Hispanic world so much: "I'm not going to be the only one who can say, "I'm not going to be the only one who can say, "I'm not going to be the only one.I want to build the wall, we have to build the wall."(with Mexico). Although he no longer repeated what has outraged the Mexicans even more in recent months: that they would have to pay the bill for the more than three thousand kilometers.

On this side of the ocean, in parallel to the dismantling of the "the jungle"In September, France and the United Kingdom announced the construction of a four-meter high, one-kilometer wall in Calais to prevent the arrival of refugees and migrants in Britain, CNN reported.

"We have already built the fence. Now we will make a wall"British Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill announced. Despite current security measures - which include a fence - Goodwill said some people still risk traveling to the UK.

However, some protests and arguments against the Calais wall have already emerged. British truck drivers have criticized the construction of the wall as "poor use of taxpayers' money"In the words of Richard Burnett, leader of the Road Freight Association.

And in statements reported by the British newspaper The GuardianFrançois Guennoc, from the NGO Auberge des Migrants, which works in Calais, assures that "this wall will only make migrants have to go further to cross it". "When you put up walls anywhere in the world, people find ways to jump over them. It's a waste of money. It can make things more dangerous. It will increase the rates for human traffickers and people will end up taking more risks."Guennoc noted.

However, also in countries that have seen the Berlin Wall grow and fall, because they belonged to the former Soviet orbit, fences and walls have begun to be erected in order to stop migrants on their way to Germany.

Some of the states that have taken such initiatives are Bulgaria, on the Turkish border; Hungary, on its borders with Serbia and Croatia; Slovenia, with Croatia; Macedonia, with Greece; and Estonia, which has voted to build a wall on the border with Russia, in addition to Greece and the aforementioned United Kingdom and France.

As is well known, Spain has had high fences with Morocco in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla for years, of 8 and 12 kilometers respectively, in order to dissuade illegal entry of migrants through the Alawite country. And not to be forgotten is Israel's wall in the West Bank, more than 700 kilometers of barrier with the Palestinians.

In short, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the globalized economy, many analysts thought that the walls would come down, but migratory flows and conflicts have set them in motion once again.

Alongside the lifting of these walls, mention must also be made of a recent initiative with positive overtones, although the nuances are not fully known: The European Union has begun to sign agreements with African countries. The motive is not to facilitate the reception of migrants, nor their integration in Europe, but it is reaching compromises. These are Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia.

The Union's objective is migration control. EU agencies are accused of conditioning the development aid of the States. But Brussels denies this. Time will give or take away reasons, while Pope Francis calls on Europe to "recover the capacity to integrate that it has always had".

"All walls fall, today or tomorrow."

Returning from Philadelphia last year, a German journalist asked the Pope about the migration crisis, and about the decision of several countries to armor their borders with barbed wire. The Holy Father Francis was blunt. The word crisis hides behind it a long process, provoked in large part by "the exploitation of a continent against Africa"and wars. Regarding fences and wire fences, he said: "All walls fall, today, tomorrow, or a hundred years from now, but they all fall. It is not a solution. The wall is not a solution. The problem remains. And it remains with more hatred".

Later on, he reiterated the same idea in a Wednesday catechesis, already in Rome: "In some parts of the world there are walls and barriers. Sometimes it seems that the silent work of many men and women who, in many ways, offer to help and assist refugees and migrants, is overshadowed by the murmur of giving voice to an instinctive selfishness.".

The greatest solidarity: Italy

The Italian nation has recently become the host country par excellence. Not only does it rescue 160,000 migrants a year from drowning, but it seems to want to take in those that France and Germany will not admit.

Mario Marazitti, chairman of the Social Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, assures that Italy, unlike other European countries, has already taken a decision. In statements reported by El Paíssaid: "Europe is an old lady, almost without descendants, who has to decide whether she wants to continue to grow old alone, locked up in her beautiful house, surrounded by furniture, paintings and jewelry, or sharing the future with those who arrive. Migrations, instead of being a danger, are a great opportunity. A transfusion of future and solidarity for the old lady.".

Prefect Mario Morcone, head of the Immigration Department of the Ministry of the Interior, has stated: "There is no connection between immigration and criminality, just as there is no connection between immigration and terrorism. None. And this is not my opinion. The data says so. There is no connection whatsoever.

"Our country" -explains Morcone- "was until recently a place of passage for migrants, but now, having been rejected by France or Germany, they have no choice but to stay here. At present, we have almost 160,000 people in a reception situation, distributed throughout the territory, supported by families, associations and municipalities. Today, however, the focus is not so much on reception, but rather on inclusion and integration.".

To this end, the Italian State has begun to seek support from civil society. One example is the humanitarian corridors set up by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Evangelical Church.

Figures and data on to migratory flows

-Three hundred thousand migrants this year alone. So far in 2016, more than three hundred thousand migrants have reached Europe through the Mediterranean; almost 170,000 through Greece, and 130,000 through Italy, and more than 3,500 people have drowned or disappeared. Greece has asked for help these days to take care of 60,000 refugees, trapped in their country after the closing of the borders by the agreement between the European Union and Turkey. "We need blankets now", says the Hellenic Executive.

-New wall announcements. In order to deter the arrival of migrants, some countries have announced or implemented border fences and walls, in addition to those existing in countries such as Israel or Spain. They are France and the United Kingdom in Calais, Bulgaria, on the Turkish border; Hungary, on its borders with Serbia and Croatia; Slovenia, with Croatia; Macedonia, with Greece; and Estonia on the border with Russia. In the United States, Trump has announced a wall on the border with Mexico if he wins the elections.

-Italy, an effort of solidarity. The Italian nation has become the world's largest migrant-receiving country. Not only does it rescue 160,000 migrants a year from drowning, but it seems to want to take in those that France and Germany reject. It now has more than 160,000 people housed throughout the country, and supported by families, associations and municipalities.

In collaboration with
Do you want independent, truthful and relevant news?

Dear reader, Omnes reports with rigor and depth on religious news. We do a research work that allows the reader to acquire criteria on the events and stories that happen in the Catholic sphere and the Church. We have star signatures and correspondents in Rome who help us to make the background information stand out from the media noise, with ideological distance and independence.

We need you to face the new challenges of a changing media landscape and a reality that demands reflection, we need your support.

In collaboration with
More on Omnes
La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.