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The "problem of immigrants" to Europe

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A few days ago, we received the sad news of the death of many people in the Mediterranean sea, who were trying to cross from Libya to different parts of Europe through Italy. It was of course not the first time we were hearing such devastating news. The “problem of the immigrants” is real all over the world. It is an issue of people running away from their countries to other countries looking for a better life, almost making the centuries old saying “North or South, East or West, home is best” appear a falsity. Even as the world continue fuming about the immigrants from Africa and Middle east into Europe, or from Mexico to America, the truth of the matter is that immigration of people did not start yesterday. We know from history that hundreds of thousands of people moved from Europe to the America between 17th and 19th century, and especially after the world war I and II. At that time, immigration was happening from the north hemisphere of the world to the southern hemisphere of the world, but today people seem to be moving more from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. The preoccupation of the Europeans are genuine, as was those of the people who received them in America after the world war I and II. The number of the immigrants in Italy for example says it all. In the province of Rome alone there are more than 380 thousand immigrants, 250 thousand of whom live in the county of Rome, making 10% of the population of those who live there. Among them, the average age of the immigrants is 37.2 years, while that of the Italians is 44.4 years. Of the immigrants living in Rome 52% are women. This obvious has socio-economic impacts. The sheer number of the immigrants requires some form of structured way of dealing with them, otherwise the whole issue of thousands of people coming in and going out of a country could also be a security issue.

The most interesting thing is that just as people are running away from their countries due to difficult situation today, so it was after the first world war and the second world war. Europe was poor and everybody was trying his best to look for a greener pasture. The big question now is: has the immigration of people become bad because it involves Africans and Arabs? What is disturbing is that while the Europeans were running away from situations they had created themselves in their own countries, Africans and the Arabs are running away from situation created by the Europeans and their western allies. If I may ask for example, who is to blame for the chaos in Libya if not those invaded the country and brought down its government? Why is there chaos in Iraq? Is it not because of the invasion of America? Even those who say that people are running away from Africa due to non-functional governments that have failed to take care of their people, should also ask themselves why are the governments not functioning. Is it not because of the powerful multinational corporations that pull economic and political strings in the poor countries? Aren’t most of these multinational corporations either European or American? This is another way of saying Europe and America can’t wash their hands off the problems facing the world, and particularly Africa, Arabian countries and Asian countries. Through colonisation, they built their now strong economies by using mineral resources of the now poor countries, and today through open market (supported by globalisation) they continue manipulating and destroying the lives of the people in poor countries unabated.

Of course it would be unfair to claim that all the problem of the world are tied to Europe or America. However, before dismissing the claim, it would be better we look into it again. With more and more people dying in the Mediterranean ocean every few days, it would be important to ask ourselves why hasn’t the problem been solved up to now? Or is it just impossible to stop the trend? I don’t think so! The truth is that there is no political will. In fact, the truth is that someone senior somewhere must be benefiting from all what is happening. The issue of immigrants from Africa and Middle East to Europe cannot be separated from human trafficking. The victims part with thousands of Euros to be facilitated to reach Europe “for a better life.” The question is who is behind the whole movement. Who owns the boats for example, and why is it difficult to apprehend them? In other words, just as drug trafficking and arms trafficking, human trafficking is a huge business. This means that if the world wants to stop the increasing deaths of innocent and desperate people in the Mediterranean ocean then someone must go for those behind the transportation.

In addition, although many people in Europe feel that the migrants are complicating their lives by taking away their jobs, in truth, the economy of some of the countries in Europe is highly intertwined with the immigrants issue – or better highly intertwined with the exploitation of the immigrants. An example. If an Italian firm wants to employ some persons, if it employs Italians, the Italian government will demand good wage, say 1000 Euro and benefits. The option some firms is always to employ immigrants who will accept anything for the wage and without benefits for survival. That way the firms lower their cost of production and maximizes their profits. Then there are those organisations that receive money from the government in the name of offering hospitality to the immigrants. Some offer sub-standard services, while in truth pocketing millions from the state. In other words, although the presence of the immigrants appears to be hated and disliked, there are many who are benefiting from the desperate situation. This is another way of saying, if truly the problem of the immigrants has to be solved, the world must be ready to deal with the underlying issues behind it. At the same time the world will have to be ready for a socio-economic and political revolution since the present status quo is founded on inequality in the society and the struggled to survive of the down trodden.

From this view of things, if the status quo if founded on the oppression of the rights of the down trodden, and if the Church has to stand firm for the poor as our Lord Jesus Christ demanded, then it is clear that not only is the mission of the Church far from over, but also that the Church cannot ignore any effort for a socio-economic and political revolution in the world. This explains why the care of immigrants has to continue being at the centre of the pastoral program in Italy. This also explains why we, the Consolata missionaries in Italy, have made it one of our pastoral options in Torino. At present we are making our contribution to the immigrants through the parish Maria Speranza Nostra which is located at the periphery of Torino, through chaplaincy of the Latin American community in Torino and through the Ecumenical Group of Torino, which is a group of the English speaking African protestants under our care. May the Good Lord inspire world leaders to come up with tangible and transforming solutions to the problems of the immigrants.