11 children, 7 pregnant women, 123 minors and up to a total of 629 migrants, were on board of the Aquarius when the ship was denied docking in Italian ports.
The decision was taken by Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Interior Minister. Salvini is also the leader of Lega Nord, a right-wing party, which is in charge of the government together with the Movimento Cinque Stelle.
Salvini’s decision has been criticised by many, especially those working with immigrants and refugees, knowing how important it is to keep Italian ports open.
Salvini asked Malta to allow them to land in La Valletta, but Malta refused to take the Aquarius in, instead aid in the sea.
The Aquarius case has been followed from all over Europe, with multiple countries criticising Salvini’s decision.
In the end, Spain allowed the ship to land in Valencia.
The issue is still not resolved with Salvini criticising Europe for not helping with the immigration issue.
Immigration and refugees have been for years the scapegoat for racism and nationalism. People escaping difficult situations have been blamed for crimes and bad economies.
In Italy there is a massive divide between people who are happy with Salvini “finally thinking about Italian’s first” and those who are ashamed to be represented by a racist and xenophobic party who is unable to help refugees.
Both sides still agree that Europe has not done enough to help Italy deal with the crisis, bringing up examples such as France closing the borders in Ventimiglia, stopping migrants from leaving Italy.
The emergency not being handled correctly resulted in a rise of populistic views, with racism and xenophobia being alimented by fear and hatred.
This sentiment of hatred manifested all over Europe in the last years with Hungary threatening to build up walls and ultimately with Brexit. The worst case taking place in America with the election of Trump.
Humanity is going through difficult times characterized with an evident lack of empathy.
But we can change the situation by sharing the stories of the immigrants coming here, showing that they are escaping from terrible situations and would not embark deadly journeys otherwise.
We have an obligation towards those who need help, no matter how bad we think our countries’ economies are.
If we fail to help them, how are we going to change and detach ourselves from our terrible histories?