“Shipwrecks continue because there are no legal and safe routes” | Interview

Is it true that there have been fewer migrant journeys across the Mediterranean, but that the number of deaths has not dropped significantly?
Most trips take place in summer, when weather conditions are better. A boat coming at this time represents a greater risk and those who come there know that. The greater the desperation, the more people risk. Shipwrecks continue because there are no legal and safe routes to reach Europe. Since there is no alternative, people spend a lot of money on risky trips. We have to give them the possibility to find safer ways to make these trips.

How do you assess in this context, laws such as the one approved last week by the Italian Parliament that obliges NGO ships to request access to a port and sail there “without delay” after a rescue, instead of continuing on the high seas available to help other boats potentially in distress?
Since the beginning of humanity, human beings have used their mobility and this has always created conflicts. There are two bad political attitudes: opening borders without control and closing them, making countries a fortress. If we open it without control, we cannot protect victims of human trafficking. If we close, we encourage people to resort to more desperate methods. We must open in a controlled manner. Criminalizing NGOs is the wrong narrative. Especially because they assumed a function that should be the responsibility of the States. Instead of persecuting civil society, states have to cooperate with it.

How should the problem of migration be addressed?
We have to look for the answers at the source. Understand why people leave. What are you running away from? From extreme poverty, from political persecution… It’s a very complex job. Then there has to be a sharing of responsibility between the European States. What we see today is Italy and Greece having a greater overload as a result of their location. Germany is one of the countries that welcomes the most refugees. But everyone must contribute. People must be integrated and welcomed in a convenient way so that episodes of violence like the one that recently happened in Olhão do not happen. Realize that coming people need a decent house to live in, access to health and school, etc.

In a Europe moving towards a drastic aging of the population, shouldn’t these flows be seen as a good solution for the future?
For us Portuguese, a country of emigrants, it should be easier to understand this. But there are myths… that we are going to lose our traditions, our culture. People cannot believe this. Let’s look at our communities of emigrants around the world who, despite being far away and in other contexts, haven’t changed that much. Unfortunately this is a very politicized subject, which feeds into a narrative of hate and xenophobia.

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