In an extraordinary online video, illegal migrants in Italy have been telling their fellow countrymen not to come to Italy “because you will starve.”
A man identified only as Roshan from Sri Lanka faces the camera and says: “This country is in a serious crisis, and it affects migrants too.”
Niemel from Pakistan says: “To be an illegal migrant in Italy is to face hunger and desperation.”
José from Angola says: “My fellow countrymen, don’t come to Italy, you will starve.”
According to a BBC report, the migrants are speaking in their own languages in a video which was produced as part of the European election campaign of a candidate for the right-wing, anti-immigration Northern League.
Angelo Ciocca, the candidate, told the BBC that “the migrants had willingly participated in the video, but that he had written the messages.”
He hopes the video will reach the migrants’ home countries to discourage them from coming to Italy, but he also hopes it will win votes in the up-coming elections to the European Parliament.
It may well do that. Italy is the target for tens of thousands of migrants from Asia, the Middle East and particularly from sub-Saharan Africa. People traffickers move migrants to North African ports where they attempt to cross to the southern coast of Italy.
Lampedusa, a small Italian island just 70 miles from Tunisia and with a population of less than 5,000, has seen tens of thousands of migrants land. Unknown hundreds more are thought to have drowned on the crossing.
Last year, the first visit of Pope Francis outside Rome was to Lampedusa, where he prayed for migrants, living and dead, and said Mass with a small painted boat as an altar. He denounced people traffickers and condemned the “global indifference” to their plight.
Now Matteo Salvini, a member of the European Parliament for the Northern League, has called for suspension of the Italian Navy operation that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean. According to the BBC, he said the rescue operation encourages migrants to come to Italy.
The report claims that this is an attempt by the Northern League to bring the migration issue to the fore in the election, since the issue has been “relatively absent.”
However, the Northern League is campaigning as an anti-EU party in an election where the damage done by the euro to the Italian economy and Italian industry is very much part of a wider debate on the EU. The loss of control of national borders is one of the issues for eurosceptic parties across the EU – in particular for Britain’s UKIP, with its powerful poster of an escalator moving up the White Cliffs of Dover – in addition to the issue of the single European currency.
On Friday, Matteo Renzi, the euro-enthusiast prime minister of Italy, signalled that control of asylum policy should be taken away from national governments and put under the control of the European Commission and EU law.
Euro-enthusiasts such as Renzi want the EU to make the coastline of Italy a “European border” instead of a sovereign Italian border, taking control of the border away from voters who Renzi said can be swayed by “the spectre of anti-European populism.”