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Reject Ferocity, Not Migrants

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Benedetto Saraceno


Data provided by the agencies of the United Nations 


Today in the world there are 65 million people who have left their communities of origin: among them 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and 40 million displaced persons within their own country. The number of refugees and migrants that have reached European shores so far since the beginning of the year has passed the milestone of 300,000 people, according to data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): less than the 520,000 arrivals by sea registered in the first nine months of 2015, but more than the 216,054 arrivals recorded throughout all of 2014.
These numbers tell us that the so-called "migrant emergency" is numerically less dramatic than the media (at least certain media) and the governments would have us believe.
Arrivals in Italy this year follow the same pattern as last year, with the arrival of 130,411 refugees and migrants during 2016, and 132,071 during the first nine months of last year. However, there are more and more people arriving in Italy and staying in the country: to date, asylum applications have more that doubled in Italy, compared to the same period last year. Over 158,000 people are currently housed in reception centres in Italy. The countries of origin of the arrivals in Italy are Nigeria which alone accounts for 20% followed by Eritrea (12%).
Among the Mediterranean countries, five are the nationalities most represented: Siria, 30%; Afghanistan, 16%; Iraq, 10%; Nigeria, 7%; Eritrea, 5%.
Of 520,000 arrivals by sea in 2015 there were 3,711 deaths while out of 300,000 arrivals in 2016 the dead were 3,211: therefore arrivals are diminishing but the death rate is rising.
This situation, difficult to give an adjective to ("scandalous" "unacceptable" "inhuman"), stresses the urgent need for States to increase channels for the admission of refugees that is to undertake to implement resettlement procedures, private sponsorship, family reunification and to promote schemes of study scolarships for studeents, all of this to provide concrete alternatives to hazardous journeys controlled by traffickers.
Instead the opposite is happening: a year ago the European Union (EU) and the Member States agreed to accomodate in various European countries 160,000 asylum-seekers who had arrived in Greece and Italy but, so far, fewer than 5,000 asylum seekers have been transferred from Greece (3,791) and from Italy (1,156), ie only 3% of the set target.

A manipulated emergency

This is the data that does not reveal so much of a momentous migrant emergency in Europe but rather of an epochal betrayal by Europe of the most basic values of humanity, tolerance, solidarity. A migration flux that has far more significant historical precedents and that is amply justified by the dramatic conditions in which millions of people in Africa and the Middle East find themselves but that has found only dramatically inadequate answers, or non-answers or even and too often, violent and xenophobic responses.
We can therefore say:

1. That Europe receives a relatively small number of immigrants when compared with the numbers found in non-European countries. The poorer States are host to more refugees. The Director of Oxfam International (a confederation of 18 organizations working in 90 countries), Winnie Byanyima, points out that 86 percent of refugees are now housed in low-income countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan and many African states. "At least one third of the 24,5 million refugees in the world, are housed in the countries of the African Union", Byanyma points out "an area that accounts for only 2.9 percent of the global economy".

2. That Italy does not receive an especially large nunber of migrants even if it has to face the resistance and often the closure of its neighbouring countries.

3. That the timid attempts to promote a fair reception on a geographical basis have found serious resistance and sabotage not only in too many local administrators but also in local communities conquered by the call to an identity alarm and the delirious, related fears (just think of the "new heroes of the Resistance against the dictatorship of hospitality" as the Northern League defined the 4000 citizens of Goro who put up barricades to block the invasion of 11 foreign girls).

4. That information on the issue of migrants is insufficient and often manipulated and mystifying: accurate and documented data is rarely supplied but more often inaccurate, invented, incongruous statistics are provided. Information on the existing laws of the Republic is ignored as well as any reference to International Conventions.

5. That an "immigration allarm" has been promoted, alas with a discrete success, based on fears and spectres and not on reliable information: there is a continuous allusion to an increase in crime caused by migrants which however is far from proven, there is a fear of a risk of diseases, a stirring up of the spectre of competition between italians and immigrants in the approach to work, there are stories of extraordinary costs for hospitality to migrants who in the xenophobic imagination, amuse themselves on the edge of hollywood-style swimming pools, drinking expensive wines paid for by the poor italian taxpayer. It is interesting to note that the more local communities have been in real contact with groups of migrants, the more tolerance, solidarity and acceptance has increased and how, instead, the more communities are distant from the problem the more fears and xenophobic paranoia find their way in.
The well-known cases of the generous hospitality of Lampedusa and Riace in Calabria are interesting "cases" that show that local communities when not invited to exercise ferocity are instead ready to practice solidarity.

6. That the experiences and the practices of hospitality implemented by local governments, by non-governmental, non-profit organizations, by single communities or families are many more than one can imagine and that they would like us to believe. The information, lavish with details when a migrant commits a crime, is scarcely interesting enough to be told, when a family of italians or a small town or a private organization "commit" a gesture of hospitality and solidarity.



Values and Rights

However it just doesn't mean refering to "common values" of humanity and solidarity (terms that perhaps are slightly vague and above all with a flexible meaning according to convenience) but one should also refer to indisputable elements of international law or spin-offs from many international agreements ratified under the auspices of the United Nations. The "values" in fact are often relegated among the abstract virtues that need to be stated but that can easily be ignored. Instead the agreements and conventions realized under the auspices of the United Nations have, compared with the rhetorical statement of humanitarian "values", at least the advantage of being more mandatory for the Governments of the countries that have ratified them: for example, the Convention on refugees of 1951 or the numerous Conventions on human rights and in general, the so-called Humanitarian Right.
On September 19, 2016 all the representatives of the governments that make up the United Nations approved the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration recognizes that migrants and refugees are escaping from war, violence, persecution, the systematic violation of human rights, the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, poverty. However the New York Declaration does not "classify" refugees and migrants creating dangerous categories that "relativize" the rights to hospitality but it acknowledges that whatever the reasons which resulted in migration and flight, all these people may have the benefit of certain fundamental rights. Despite much and legitimate criticism of the New York Declaration held by many non-governmental organizations (Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontières, Oxfam) as being too vague and not "forceful" and exacting enough for governments (the Declaration is not binding for any of the signatory States). However, it can be of use as a reference text for understanding the abysmal distance between what governments agreed in New York and what they actually do in practice when they are concretely confronted with the flow of migrants and refugees: we must not forget the shameful closure of the European spaces achieved thanks to the EU-Turkey agreement in March 2016. In the New York Declaration the States assume commitments such as the fight against exploitation, racism and xenophobia, but these commitments are routinely violated by many Governments, such as Hungary, or mocked and despised by many politicians with ambitions for national leadership as is the case of Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy. The Declaration also makes provision for the rescue of people on the run; ensuring fair border procedures and in line with international law. Other commitments relate to the promotion of education for early childhood as well as primary and secondary education, and the creation of systems to facilitate access to income for refugees and host communitites. The emphasis is also on the increase in resettlement opportunities or other forms of admission in third countries.
"The alarm of the migrant emergency" has not only promoted and spread an increasingly fiercer and violent language on the social networks, in the media and in politics but it distorts real data, emphasizes the problems, simplifies the populist solutions and hides sensible, reasonable, civil and human solutions.
Reject Ferocity, Not Migrants
All those, and there are many, who are not willing to passively accept this culture of emergency and fear are however, not united by belonging to a political party or a single ideaology or a religion but are disunited, dispersed and fragmented by often heterogeneous reasons, and anyhow they have not yet found a slogan or a flag. Instead the flags of xenophobia, intollerance, social paranoia, of selfishness, and verbal violence have an increasing number of standard bearers.
We have a hard job and a long and dangerous road ahead of us if we want to deinstitutionalize the culture of emergency, and promote the culture of hospitality and solidarity. It means carrying out, in the words of Franco Basaglia, a ‘long march' through the institutions, legislation, statistics, regulations, public and private opportunities. It means counting on and organizing oneself to return to Politics.


We must combat disinformation; collect data and information in a systematic and vast form :
• on the real numbers of immigration
• on the consequences, more positive than negative, of immigration on the employment market and local economies
• on the real costs of hospitality and the different types of reception possible
• on the real risks of the recurrence of certain diseases (such as Tuberculosis) and the imaginary risks of a general alarm in public health,
• on behaviors, on the needs and difficulties of social integration of the groups of migrants and refugees
• on the relationship between migration and crime
• on the rights established by existing national and international laws

We therefore urgently need to create a powerful Counter-Information Centre


We need to sound out good hospitality practices to show that "one can", to describe "those who do so" (public and/or private), "how much does it cost", what are the "fallout effects on the social capital" of local communities, to intercept, understand, denounce the risks of "commercialization" inherent in every practice of hospitality.

We therefore need to create a Social Observatory capable of interpreting phenomena related to immigration in an anthropological and psycho-social key.


We must promote a political institutional table that allows us to talk to national, regional, provincial, municipal and territorial institutions, with trade unions, with the churches, with the non-profit world, with local communities.
However, we must create our own group of high-profile spokespersons, equipped with technical and moral credibility able to interact on a par with politics and with the civil society.

We therefore need to create a National Secretariat for Migrants and Refugees.


We must "return to the streets and squares." United by the slogan: "Welcome Migrants and Refugees. Reject intollerance and Ferocity", we must from now on build up national coordination for a national public initiative that brings a million citizens to the streets no later than a year from today as I write this Editorial (November 2016) even though it will not be published until April 2017. We need to build strategic alliances but also tactics to give force to this national movement from which to restart the political commitment of many progressive citizens, silenced and silent for far too long.
So in November 2017 we will return to Politics even in the streets now deserted by the left-wing and instead occupied by the populist right and by governmental structures.

We therefore need to create a National Coordination "Welcome Migrants and Refugees. Reject Intolerance and Ferocity".


1. CESTIM - Centro Studi Immigrazione, Study Centre for Migration.. Migranti e immigrati nel mondo a livello internazionale, nazionale e locale. Updated data CESTIM (edited by Gloria Albertini). Verona, 2016.
2. UNHCR. Global Trends. Forced displacement in 2015. UNHCR, Geneva 2016.
3. Cortinovis R. Reshaping the External Dimension of EU Asylum Policy: the Difficult Quest for a Comprehensive Approach. Foundation ISMU. Milan, 2017.
4. Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti, Pontificio Consiglio Cor Unum. Welcome Christ in the Refugees and People Forcibly Uprooted. Pastoral guidelines. Città del Vaticano, 2013.
5. Centro Sociale Autogestito Pací Paciana. La Lega di Salvini e i Profughi. Fra populismo e strane alleanze. c.s.a. Pací Paciana. Filed under: Analysis Communications. September 2014.


By the same authors:                Dancing the samba while piloting a jet plane   SouqBiblio: annotated international bibliography*  A Return to the Way leading to Happiness   Aporeia of empowerment  Deconstructing the paradigm of "migrant emergency"  Defend the ways of liberation  Describing reality but also changing it  Educate in complexity  Empowerment  Global health, local health: a paradigm of the failures of globalization   Health systems are not designed for the needs of citizens  Souqbiblio (number 1)  SouqBiblio: international annotated bibliography number 8  SouqBiblio: international annotated bibliography*  SouqBiblio: internazional annotated bibliography (number 6)  SouqBiblio: annotated international bibliography  SouqBiblio: annotated international bibliography  SouqBiblio: annotated international bibliography  SouqBiblio: annotated international bibliography  SouqBiblio: international annotated bibliography (number 5)  SouqBiblio: international annotated bibliography (number 3)  SouqBiblio: International annotated bibliography (number 7)  SouqBiblio: internazional annotated bibliography (number 4)  SouqBiblio: References (number 2)  The association Poverty - Mental Disorders and its implications for outcome and care provision   The Confusion to be managed  The paradigm of urban suffering  Time of Siege  Urban Resistance  Verbal violence and social paranoia 

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The study centre wishes to study the phenomenon of urban suffering, in other words the suffering that is specific to the great metropolises. Urban Suffering is a category that describes the meeting of individual suffering with the social fabric that they inhabit. The description, the understanding and the transformation of the psychological and social dynamics that develop from the meeting of ...

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