Vittorio Craxi, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, re-launches the appeal of Interior Minister Giuliano Amato: “ours, as opposed to others, is not a country of destination, but of transit. We are the Mediterranean gateway. But choosing to ignore the fact that the volume of incoming migrants over the coming years is liable to increase for us as well would be like not being able to predict a typhoon. This is not, however, a meteorological phenomenon but one of the major emergencies facing us in this decade, and we must do it with Europe”.
Q. As happens every August, images of loads of boat-people landing daily on Italian shores filled with both hope and desperation?
A. “The problem is to strike at the root of the phenomenon. This influx being directed toward Lampedusa is coming from Libya, down a highly vulnerable corridor leading from Sub-Saharan Africa all the way to our coastline. It is a problem even for the Libyans to deal with; the Algerians have the same problem, and I say this because I discussed it with them only two months ago. They are coming in waves that are difficult to control”.
Q. How does one deal with this?
A. “First of all, by forging solid agreements with coastal countries. The next conference on emigration in the Mediterranean is to be held in Tripoli, and this will be one of the proposals that we will be making to the Libyan government. The problem is one of controlling the borders with the more desperate countries; this in logistical-technical terms”.
Q. The first objection is that agreements have already been made with Libya, but the boat-people continue to arrive. To the extent that Minister Amato is saying that the issue must become an EU one.
A. “There is no correlation between the status of our relations with Libya and this migratory wave, which is very intense. There will be a meeting 15 days from now in New York of the General Assembly of the International Organisation for Migration, the agenda of which is to include, in addition to a series of issues associated with the study of the phenomenon, that of the geographic areas most concerned. There is a logistical problem to be resolved at international level and then there is a political and economic one that cannot be put off”.
Q. A problem even more difficult than the logistical one, how is it to be dealt with?
A. “One of the major issues is the earmarking of funds for countries faced with dramatic drought and famine conditions. This is the problem of the millennium and it is no accident that Kofi Annan has placed Africa at the centre of his attention. While boats are overturning at sea and life becomes increasingly desperate our debate is fixated on dotting the i's and crossing the t's of legislation. But it is not by law that one gains control over the phenomenon”.
Q. And yet Italy is fighting over legislation. The Northern League is insisting on strong measures: Maroni is asking for barbed wire along the borders, Calderoni wants to shoot at the boat-people to send them back where they came from.
A. “To tell the truth, I don't remember such great performance by Interior Minister Maroni. What's more, the careless and superficial manner in which these issues have been confronted, solely for internal political gains, have not helped resolve the problem: even the Northern League minority must realise that this is one of the major issues facing the world today and must be confronted using the same approach as the responsible and earnest governments of all of Europe”.
Q. There are those among the CDL maintaining that reducing the waiting time for citizenship could make these journeys of desperation more attractive.
A. “I believe that those poor disparate people who died at Lampedusa did not have the habit of reading the morning edition of Corriere della Sera. Thus they did not die because the waiting time for Italian citizenship had been reduced. It is, however, not wise to grant demagogic operations; i.e. not supporting this measure is a way of emphasising the value of the multiethnic character of our society, which must indeed maintain its own characteristics while, at the same time, behaving fairly with those who have come here to rebuild a life”.