Italian media have been rife these past months with references to an “immigration crisis.” The term “crisis” may be a bit overstated. Nonetheless, in the first four months of 2023, the number of illegal immigrants arriving on Italian shores, especially from North Africa and the Middle East, has more than tripled. This influx overtaxes reception centers and refugee camps, besides the National Health System.
Why this sudden upsurge?
Without any major war or natural catastrophe to blame, some analysts ask if Italy’s conservative government has anything to do with it. The answer is probably yes. In politics, there is no such thing as coincidence, especially when there is a pattern.
The illegal immigration surge spells trouble for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. At the very least, it creates a windfall propaganda opportunity for her leftist opposition.
Of course, the left favors unchecked immigration, especially from African and Muslim countries. It feeds into the left’s scheme to dissolve European Christian civilization. Mass immigration from areas outside of Europe favors the sort of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society that the “progressives” adore.
Historically, European societies have shown remarkable signs of resilience. Not even two World Wars managed to unhinge their core institutions. Now, these societies face a two-pronged threat. First, Europe faces an internal process of decay, whereby the continent is abandoning its Faith and roots.
One can argue that this condition has existed since World War II. The new factor is an increasing influx of foreigners who have no desire to assimilate into European culture. As a consequence, Europe is losing its distinctive character. It increasingly looks like a patchwork of cultures and religions. A 2015 United Nations study showed that if present patterns persist, one-third of the Italian population will be composed of foreigners by 2050.1
By their nature, true conservatives naturally defend national identity and traditions, especially those stemming from the Catholic Faith. The immigration surge forces the Meloni Government to adopt a defensive posture. Such a stance opens the government to accusations of callousness, xenophobia, greediness and so forth. The Government is caught between the need to defend Italian borders and the danger of alienating public opinion moved by sentiment. Its leftist opponents seize the opportunity by distributing cleverly crafted propaganda pieces.
Thus, Italian media have been awash for these past months with photos of little children drowning in the Mediterranean. They show mothers desperately clinging to newly-born infants on sinking ships. Anxious and emaciated people in makeshift boats cry for help and other poignant scenes. These shocking images elicit compassionate feelings that, while perfectly legitimate, cloud rational judgment. The natural horror towards the sufferings of others may overstep the boundaries of reason and become an overwhelming passion. Such emotions hinder the rational debates that make logical and just policies possible.
In light of such portrayals, many ask if Italians (and others) are morally bound to take all arriving at their shores to alleviate their sufferings. Emotion alone makes it difficult for the conservative Government to find solutions.
A typical example was the tragic capsizing of a boatload of immigrants near the beaches of Cutro in Calabria on the night of February 25. This calamity caused the deaths of more than one hundred people. The public reaction was such that the Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of convoking a Cabinet meeting in Cutro, followed by a press conference, to avoid appearing insensitive to the immigrants’ plight.
During this meeting, the Government signed the Cutro Decree. On the one hand, it strongly curbs illegal immigration. The measure abolishes the “special protection for personal and family life” loophole that permitted immigrants to claim a life-threatening situation to seek refugee status. On the other hand, the Decree also facilitates the legal immigration of people with a regular visa.
However, calling this a “crisis” may not be entirely correct. It is not an extraordinary event, but the escalation of a decades-long process that shows no signs of receding.
Another consideration is that most immigrants who arrive in Italy do not stay there. Most move on to other European countries, especially France and Germany. This situation creates friction with neighboring countries. Some have even reinstated border control, thus suspending provisions of the Schengen Treaty.2
The clash with France has been particularly harsh. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin viciously attacked Prime Minister Meloni. He accused her of “incompetence” and her policies of being “unjust, inhuman and useless.” This led Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani to cancel a trip to Paris. Were it not for the placating intervention of President Macron, the incident could have degenerated into a diplomatic crisis.
The European Union is not helping Italy cope with this emergency. Due to its geographic location, Italy is the main landing point for immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Is this lack of aid related to the perception of Giorgia Meloni as “right-wing?” The Prime Minister correctly and repeatedly decries the fact that Italy has been left to deal with the situation alone.
There is a final, more profound consideration about this “crisis.”
There is obviously a well-orchestrated plan of the left to favor immigration to change the character of European society. At the same time, there are also domestic causes that entice foreigners to arrive.
First, Europeans are simply not reproducing. No European country has a positive birth rate. A recently published report by ISTAT (Italy’s national statistics service) shows that Italy has already passed the point of no return.3
Even if all Italian women of childbearing age began now to have children at a normal rate, the downward curve would not be stopped. Italy appears doomed to die.
Every year hundreds of Italian schools close down for lack of students, leaving many teachers jobless. Journalists speak of a “student hemorrhage.” The same bleeding applies to universities. A report by the Association for Development and Industry in the South (SVIMEZ) calculates that upwards of 20% of the universities in the South may close down over the next decade.4
This “demographic winter” creates huge shortcomings, especially in the rural and industrial workforce, which need to be filled with immigrants. Indeed, the most enthusiastic promoters of immigration are the entrepreneurs, always requiring fresh hands for their industries and farms.
Young Europeans no longer want to assume “lowly” jobs. There are few young maids, artisans, farm workers, street sweepers, garbage collectors, construction workers, etc. These jobs have to be filled by immigrants.
Even perfectly “decent” if physically demanding jobs like nurses go unfilled. Italy must import thousands of nurses from Romania, Ukraine and Peru every year. According to a recent study by Assolombardia, a business group in Lombardy, there are 300,000 unfilled jobs in Milan alone.5
Italy’s problem is not unemployment, but the lack of will of so many young people to work.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger pinpointed the root cause of this dire situation. Speaking at the Italian Senate in 2004, he warned: “There is here a self-hatred of the West which is strange and which can only be regarded as something pathological…. To survive, Europe needs a new—certainly critical and humble—acceptance of itself if it really wants to survive. Multiculturalism, which is continually and passionately encouraged and fostered, is sometimes above all abandonment and denial of what is one’s own, an escape from one’s own things.” 6
Europe has long relinquished its Catholic roots and, with them, its own identity stemming from medieval Christian civilization. That civilization assumed and perfected the Greco-Roman heritage, imbuing it with the sweet yet strong grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the world of physics, a void does not exist. That is also true in the realm of human affairs. If Europe empties itself of its Faith and identity, this void will be filled by other peoples and cultures with a stronger self-perception and a stronger will to strive.
The immigration crisis will not be solved with more stringent laws and international treaties. What is needed is a radical spiritual conversion.
This article first appeared in the Polish newspaper Nasz Dziennik.
- “L’Onu: Nel 2050 in Italia 40 milioni di immigrati”, Il Tempo, 4-26-2015.
- The Schengen Treaty of 1985 largely abolished internal border checks for those immigrating from one European nation to another. In 2016, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden “temporarily” reimposed border checks in response to the immigration crisis.