With Balkan route effectively closed how much is Italy worried about possbility that migrant flow would shitf to Italy? In general how do you see this issue of changing of refugee routes, for what should Europe be prepared? Read few comments.
Lorenzo Nannetti, International Affairs Analyst
Yes, you’ve caught a very relevant (recent) topic here: with the closure of the Balkan route there have been serious talks about Balkan flows shifting (at least in part) to Italy, and intel reports show that traffickers are already “selling” to migrants a sort of “travel package” to Italy – likely from Greece to Albania to Italy Or directly from Greece. That would put Puglia (Italy’s southeastern region) on the forefront again as during the Albanian migrations in the 1990s. Yet, despite these talks and warnings there appears to have been almost no reaction. And actually some journalists and analysts (inlcuding me) noted that if current trend continues Italian politicians in 1-2 years will likely say “but we aren’t prepared for such an unexpected flow from there” – and we’ll have to remind them that it was not unexpected at all. At the same time, Europe isn’t likely to get any better on the issue: while some more help to Italy may come, other countries in the East will be just happy that refugees are heading elsewhere, at least in part – and some polticians in those countries will state that their walls are working, as they are pushing migrants out of the way (but, mind you, this is likely just a short term “success” for them).
In theory, Italy has gained quite some experience in dealing with flows from there. In the 1990s our Special Forces conducted operations to sink smugglers and traffickers boats while they were still in Albanian ports. In the 90s and 2000s we also helped Albania recover economically and generally we have good connections there we could use. Some of these options could be useful again, with the sea being narrower there and more easily controlled. But the overall issue remains, even blocking the flow as some suggest wouldn’t solve the incoming numbers, and Albania (with Greece) can’t do it all alone.
In general, re-routing the routes isn’t a new phenomenon. Migrants (and traffickers who exploit them) are like water: they follow the path of least resistance. And it’s easier to reroute from the “sides” (Spain-Morocco on one side, as happened in the past, Balkas on the other) towards the center (Italy) than the other way around. Also, sea borders are inherently more difficult to block (you can’t build a wall in the sea, banally). And no Europe isn’t prepared because it’s still locked in those same internal squabbles we discussed in the past regarding quotes to accept in each country etc…
We need to tackle the origin, which means we have to deal with the Syrian war – more than 50% of the refugees come from there – trim that number down and you’ll get more manageable numbers. It’s a start, at least, but more cooperation is needed to manage the current numbers. Look at Idumeni, in Greece. 14-15.000 refugees there. Are we really saying EU, with 500 million people, can’t find a way to manage 15.000 people every, say, month?
The real issue is that in these places both health and radicalization issues exist, that we should face before they become too great. Currently, too many are shutting eyes.