A Sicilian mayor credited with crushing the island’s mafia has called for Europe to grant free entry to all the migrants crossing the Mediterranean, arguing that outlawing immigration through non-official channels creates a market for trafficking to thrive in. He said the trafficking crisis was creating a new generation of mobsters.
The mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando made his comments following reports that 200 more migrants had been drowned making the crossing from Libya. He called the deaths “a genocide caused by European selfishness,” and called on European leaders to do more to prevent similar disasters. He also called for them to allow more migrants to settle in their countries.
He went on to tell The Telegraph that the current system is feeding “organised crime, death and violence” by forcing migrants to operate outside the law, asserting that the trafficking trade was creating a new generation of mafia bosses thriving off the illegal activity. Each migrant travelling across the Mediterranean pays thousands of pounds for a place in a boat.
Illegal migrants who land in Italy and are unable to secure housing or work while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed also fall prey to “mafia”, Mr Orlando said. He added that many are lured into black market work.
“[Just as] prohibition in America produced Al Capone, [the lack of] permits for migrants is producing a new form of organised crime; traffickers, and then mafia men who run detention centres”, he said.
Yesterday the United Nations announced that some 224,000 migrants have crossed into Europe so far this year, already outstripping the 219,000 registered during the whole of last year.
However, evidence suggests that it is Europe’s willingness to welcome asylum seekers, exactly as Mr Orlando suggests, that is fuelling the mass migration.
According to Eurostat, in the first three months alone of 2015, 46 per cent of the 121,600 asylum applications made across the EU were granted, rising to 94 per cent of applicants from Syria, some 26,300 people.
Germany dealt with almost 50,000 applications, followed by France, who processed 17,000 applications, and the UK with 12,600. And as the year has progressed, those numbers have risen exponentially, driven by the benefits handed out to those arriving.
In the UK, failed asylum seekers are allowed to claim a weekly allowance, costing the state over £70 million a year, and can rent housing. The government is now trying to pull back from these policies, albeit to a limited extent, but not before the UK gained a reputation for being “an El Dorado”, in the words of Calais’ mayor.
UKIP’s defence spokesman Mike Hookem has argued that Mr Orlando’s suggestion would do little more than undermine the rule of law:
“The Geneva Convention has laid down in law the legitimate channels for people fleeing persecution and these do not include running through the channel tunnel after camping in France, sometimes for months at a time,” he told Breitbart London.
“There are people who are genuinely in need, particularly Christians fleeing Islamic State. But by sending out ships into the Mediterranean and picking up trafficked people we are encouraging the trade and only helping the traffickers themselves, many of whom have terrorist links.
“Having an EU wide immigration and asylum policy has only made the problem worse.”
Conversely, Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders operation, aimed at addressing the issue of people smuggling into Australia and championed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saw the number of monthly arrivals by boat fall from the hundreds to zero over seven months from the end of 2013 to February 2014.
The model prompted the Bow Group conservative think tank to call on Europe to adopt a similar policy. Nic Conner, the Bow Group’s Social and Home Affairs Research Fellow said: “We, as a civilised nation, have a moral duty to stop the organisers, who traffic refugees from conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.
“However, we need to send the firm message to all migrants: if you try to get into Europe though the back door, you will not be let in. You cannot come here by paying an evil human trafficker or by crossing in their boats. If you want to come to Europe and start a new life, you must come here lawfully.”