European Parliamentarian Cecile Kyenge was the first black Minister in Italian history when she served as Italy’s Minister for Integration in 2013-2014 in the government of Enrico Letta. NYU Florence invited Hon. Kyenge to speak in LPD’s Black Italia series this Spring to discuss the legal and political context in which the issues of identity and belonging that have traversed the ‘Black Italia’ project are framed. Engagements abroad prevented Hon. Kyenge from joining us, however, she sent the following message to the NYU Florence community.
When Italian journalist Imma Vitelli came to last year’s Black Italia dialogue, she discussed the Lampedusa shipwreck that occurred on October 3, 2013. This ship was carrying over 500 refugees and 366 of them, mostly Eritreans, died. She described the trip to Lampedusa as being “a pilgrimage through the heart of Africa’s human smuggling darkness.” Clearly her witnessing this event has manifested in her mind as a horrific memory. Vitelli was very curious as to how some of these migrants were able to survive, so she traveled to Africa to understand the struggle the migrants went through. “I wanted to trace step by step the hellish stations that I would [have to] go through to survive,” Vitelli said at the dialogue, emphasizing her desire to understand the migrants troubles. Read more
Dag Yimer, Filmmaker
Director and writer, Dagmawi Yimer was born on December 6, 1977 in Kabale, Ethiopia. He left his country after the electoral fraud and violent protests in 2005. Yimer moved to Lampedusa, Italy on July 30th 2006 where he obtained humanitarian protection. That dramatic and horrific part of his life is in fact told in a documentary, Like a Man on Earth. Read more
The small island of Lampedusa is more than just a home to 5,000 people or a quiet getaway destination. Since the 1980’s, migrants from Africa and the Middle East have used the island as an entry point to Europe. The number of migrants have increased over the last decades. Maaza Mengiste, who was a recent guest speaker, discussed her experience when she arrived at Lampedusa. She visited the island to learn more about its history with migration and to observe the ceremony held for migrants who have drowned trying to reach safety. She was also able to witness a ship arriving from Libya that was full of women, men and children. Mengiste observed that the Italians who live on Lampedusa stared at the migrants with resentment. She was stunned by the type of reaction that she saw from the Italian community. “It was hard for me to watch with the same detachment.” Mengiste said. Read more
In the past year, there was a tremendous increase in the number of people seeking asylum in the European Union, the European Union’s statistics agency announced last week. The number of applicants for asylum has surged about 44 percent from last year’s total, increasing by over 191,000 applicants. Germany has reported the highest number of asylum requests, followed by Sweden, Italy, France and Hungary. The number of asylum seekers more than doubled in Italy with an increase of 143 percent. This rise in asylum seekers is correlated with the number of immigrants escaping violence and economic instability in their home countries, specifically in North Africa. Italy’s main concern has been the increase in the number of immigrants, mainly from Libya, traveling across the Mediterranean under dangerous conditions. In contrast, countries like Portugal, Slovakia and Romania received the least number of asylum seekers. Read more
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees was created in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. Its purpose is to safeguard the rights of refugees and assist in resolving refugee problems worldwide. This agency has been making extensive efforts to raise public awareness about the crisis of immigration by providing information on their website and social media platforms. The UNHCR has estimated that, so far, since January 2015, around 470 people have either died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea, compared to 15 people during the same period last year. This is a drastic increase in just one year and exhibits the urgency with which the EU needs to come together to find a solution in order to keep the death toll from rising. Read more
To start off the Black Italia Dialogue series, I had the pleasure of interviewing novelist Maaza Mengiste before the event, “Cara Mamma, Sono in Africa”: Camera, Soldiers, Empires, on March 3rd. We discussed briefly about her journey as a writer and about her novel-in-progress, The Shadow King. I was curious to find out the connections between her writing and her relationship with Ethiopia, Maaza’s native country.
“They asked again and again when Ethiopia’s backward slide into the Middles Ages would stop. He had no answers, could do nothing but sit and gaze in helplessness at an empty hand that looked pale and thin in the afternoon sun.”
– Beneath the Lion’s Gaze Read more
The exodus of immigrants traveling across the Mediterranean in the hopes of making it to Europe continues, as more tragedies and arrests were made this week off the coast of Italy. With the discontinuation of the Italian government’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum and the ever-increasing influx of immigrants, the rescue missions are becoming riskier for the thousands of people arriving in Sicily every year. Read more
Each week, we will be posting a write-up on the most recent events regarding the immigration crisis that Italy is facing. With an influx of refugees arriving from the Middle East and Africa, our goal is to raise awareness about this important issue.
On February 28, there was an anti-immigration rally in Rome. Supporters of Italy’s right-wing Northern League protested against immigration and the European Union. The leader of this league, Matteo Salvini, accused Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of substituting the country’s interests with those of the EU. Salvini described Italy’s government immigration policies as “a disaster.” Salvini also accused the government of selling out to the EU. His main goal is to stabilize the economy, which according to Salvini is being prevented by politicians in Brussels. Read more
The International Organization for Migration is an intergovernmental organization with a mission to address issues with migration. This organization was established in 1951 with 127 member states. Additionally, there are offices in over 100 countries. On the IOM website, the organization’s purpose is defined as “promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all.” To achieve this goal, the organization offers “services and advice to governments and migrants.” The IOM advocates for nations to accept the positive connection between migration and a country’s development. It encourages cooperation between nations, provides solutions for migration issues and supports migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. According to the IOM website, the four major areas that the organization works with are: migration and development, facilitating migration (including migrant integration), migration regulation and forced migration. The procedures that the IOM is actively involved in within these four areas are international migration law, policy and guidance, migration health and the gender dimension of migration. Read more