Italy’s migrant purgatory


At a car park a short walk from Dante’s tomb, one of the gang of illegal immigrants who tell motorists where to park and hound them for cash agreed to talk to me for €20.

His name was Billy, he said, and he was 22. He was from Senegal and a Muslim. He had come to Italy by fishing boat 14 months ago from Libya, where he had arrived via Mali and Algeria. He paid €200 for the trip (the going rate is said to be at least €1,000) and his boat landed at Lampedusa, 160 nautical miles from Tripoli. ‘Why did you come?’ I asked. ‘In Senegal, no jobs,’ he replied. No war either, I pointed out: ‘You’re not refugees.’ ‘Yes, we are,’ Billy insisted. ‘Tribes are fighting in Senegal.’

…Of the 160,000 migrants who arrived (in Italy) by sea last year, only half claimed asylum in Italy (mostly Nigerians, Pakistanis, Gambians and Senegalese and a few hundred Syrians). In the same year, the Italian courts issued 30,000 migrant expulsion orders, but only half that number were enforced. The whereabouts of the 80,000 boat people from 2015 who did not apply for asylum is anyone’s guess.