by Lorenzo Bernasconi

The shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Crotone, with a provisional death toll standing at more than sixty dead as well as around twenty injured, has triggered the largest media exploitation operation that has been observed, in Italy, in recent years.

Leading Italian media have jumped on the remains of the ill-fated victims in an attempt to delegitimize the Meloni government, insisting on the most poignant or most splattering aspects of the terrible accident and denouncing alleged shortcomings on the part of Italian authorities.

However, much of the national media is careful not to focus on a fundamental aspect: tragedies like this one are not at all caused by the Italian government's overly strict policies toward illegal immigration. On the contrary: the Crotone tragedy is precisely the result of the excessive tolerance shown over the past two decades by the peninsula's authorities toward those who cross into our country illegally.

This is an absolutely demonstrable thesis, although, apparently, counterintuitive: therefore, I invite the reader to go through the chain of events step by step.

According to the information currently available, it appears that the vessel departed Izmir, Turkey, four days before the shipwreck with about 150 people on board, and therefore largely overloaded. As can be seen from the map, whatever route the vessel followed, it certainly passed near both the coasts of mainland Greece and several Hellenic islands and islets. Why, then, not land there rather than face the open sea?

naufragio crotone mappa

Greece is a safe country, a full member of the European Union. Those fleeing war have every right to seek and obtain the same protection there as they would receive in Italy. And after all, why not avoid sailing out to sea altogether? From Turkey, you can get overland to either Greece or Bulgaria, both EU countries, without risking your life in the waves. If you qualify as a refugee, why not try to enter Europe through the front door?

The reason why many prefer to set course for Italy, in fact, is easily said: Greece, a small country on the far edge of the EU, is quite strict in distinguishing between refugees and economic migrants. If the former are identified and accepted in a reasonable time, the latter, on the other hand, risk being stuck on an island or in some remote region of the country for a long time, as the Greeks tend to avoid that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants with no means of livelihood wander aimlessly around their cities, with all the risks that entails. Somewhat similar can be said for neighboring Bulgaria.

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In Italy, on the other hand, anyone who lands, even if he does not meet the requirements to be considered a refugee, is soon free to go wherever he or she wants. And not only on the national territory: in fact, if one wants to trespass to head to French-speaking Europe, to Germany or to Scandinavia, no one will stop that person (at least, not on the Italian side of the border!). For our country, after all, every illegal immigrant who crosses the Alps heading north represents a relief in economic terms and a reduction in risks to public safety: given the unsustainable migratory pressure to which the peninsula has been subjected for years, the Italian authorities certainly cannot be expected to make a disproportionate investment of men and means to forcibly detain over half a million illegal immigrants on our territory!

The smugglers know this very well at this point, and so do the unfortunate people who venture out to sea: Italy is the soft underbelly of Europe, the weak link in the chain. In their eyes, it is worth attempting a far longer and more perilous crossing than those to Greece, Malta or Cyprus, because if you make it to Italy alive, it's all downhill after that.

That said, it seems clear that only a policy of deportation, containment and repatriation as severe as that of the other European Mediterranean countries will be able to make Italy less attractive and, therefore, reduce departures, or at least "divert" the sea-carriers to shorter, safer and more monitorable routes.

The alternative is to let the trafficking continue undisturbed and let other illusion-laden tides of desperate people challenge the waves to reach a promised land where, in reality, there is no work and no future for them. Waiting for the next announced tragedy.

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Research Fellow at the Machiavelli Center for Political and Strategic Studies, formerly worked as a consultant at European Parliament, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Chamber of Deputies and Ministry of Economic Development. M.A. in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan.