Afghans who are displaced from Kunduz and Takhar provinces due to fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces gather to collect food, as they live in temporary shelters at a camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, 10 August 2021 | Photo: EPA/JAWED KARGAR
Afghans who are displaced from Kunduz and Takhar provinces due to fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces gather to collect food, as they live in temporary shelters at a camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, 10 August 2021 | Photo: EPA/JAWED KARGAR

The crisis in Afghanistan has rekindled political debate in Italy on migration. Far-right leader Matteo Salvini is focusing on a high number of migrant arrivals via sea in 2021, while the left and various other political parties have called for humanitarian corridors to get Afghans at risk out of the country.

Thousands of kilometers away, the crisis in Afghanistan has become a spark that has divided Italian political parties even more deeply on the issue of migrants.

Despite distinguishing between those who "are actually" fleeing war, as would likely be the case of Afghans arriving in Europe, the right-wing party the League under Matteo Salvini has lashed out at the possibility of any more refugees.

Salvini noted on Monday that: "As of today, August 16, there have been 34,455 arrivals, more than those seen in 2020 (34,154) and triple the number seen in 2019 (11,471)."

The League leader then cited a case of two NGO rescue ship that are "loaded with clandestine migrants ready to head to Italy", including one "with a Norwegian flag and 214 people onboard."

He added that "the interior and foreign ministers should call Oslo and tell them that Italy is not Europe's refugee camp."

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Left and especially Italy's Democratic Party (PD), which on a very bleak day for Afghanistan and the West called for humanitarian corridors from Kabul to Italy. The M5S and Italia Viva parties have called for the same, but not as forcefully.

Calls for humanitarian corridors

PD has called in unison for assistance to those in need in the country. The heads of the party in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, Debora Serracchiani and Simona Malpezzi, insist on the need for "Italy to take action to promote humanitarian corridors and agreed-upon actions for refugees."

They underscored the willingness expressed by some mayors -- including Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori -- to welcome refugees into their communities.

In the eyes of former Chamber speaker Laura Boldrini, "there is not time to waste", refering to an evacuation of Afghans who collaborated with the Italian mission in Afghanistan. She added that this should include "not only (those that helped) the armed forces, but also from NGOs, women, children, and people subjected to violence and persecution by the Taliban."

However, anticipating criticism and polemics on more migrant boat landings, she stressed that "engaging in polemics on this does not make sense. It is enough to comply with the laws on requests for humanitarian protection that are in place and that first and foremost call for access to the territory. Then there will be assessments on the relevant commission on individual cases and then the authorisation or not for protection."

Right-wing voices

At the opposite end, the League's Roberto Calderoli outlined his party's priorities: "we are faced with a true genocide and I am willing to open humanitarian corridors for those fleeing Afghanistan. However, first we need to empty the hotspots, which are full of migrants that come from countries like Tunisia and Egypt, where there is no war and who come here for other reasons."

"Those fleeing war must be hosted, this has always been our position," the senator said, stressing the difference between economic migrants and irregular ones. He added that "the crisis in Afghanistan should not be used to create confusion and lump clandestine migration and Ius Soli (reform) together. This is a serious situation that may reopen the Balkan route and that should be dealt with at the European level."

Also concerned was the Forza Italia party, faced with a "humanitarian crisis that may turn into mass immigration that may be dangerous for our already compromised social system," national coordinator for the party Antonio Tajani said.

He added that "in these hours thousands of migrants continue to disembark from North Africa. We are asking that, in the next few hours, both EU foreign policy chief Borrell and (Italian) Foreign Minister Di Maio address the European Parliament and its Italian counterpart on future strategies on the issue of terrorism control and migration flows from Afghanistan."

Fratelli d'Italia's Giorgia Meloni instead avoided the issue of humanitarian corridors and focused on EU responsibilities. "Italy should go to the EU and ask for a European mission to negotiate with the Libyan government in order to halt departures (from the North African country's coast) and to set up hotspots in Africa to assess who has the right to be a refugee and who does not," she said.


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