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Europe’s Reaction to the North African Refugee Tsunami: “We are slowly dying here”

“We are slowly dying here.” The message, which was part of a Facebook exchange with my friend Riccardo in Italy, gave me cause for real concern. Riccardo is normally a very upbeat guy – ebullient, in fact. A resident of Turin, he lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world and as a young, intelligent, enthusiastic guy, he has a world of opportunity before him. But the recent influx of refugees from Tunisia and the aftermath of refugee camps and embittered politicians have him profoundly worried.


Thousands of people, displaced as a result of the demonstrations and rioting in places like Tunisia, are flooding Europe. More than 5,000 refugees landed on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, which only has a population of 6,500. The Italians have been moving the new arrivals to refugee centers, but are finding they have far more refugees than space – several times more, in fact. Most of them appear to be gaining temporary visas as refugees, and then – because of the treaty among several European countries called the Schengen Agreement – utilizing those visas to travel into other treaty-bound countries including France and Germany. “Why would people leave Tunisia after a democracy-oriented revolution has occurred?” one might ask. In an interview with one of the young men involved, EU Observer was told: “I didn’t think Europe would be so unwelcoming. I will not stay in Italy, once on the mainland, I will leave in 24 hours.” This young Tunisian endured a 16-hour trip on a boat filled with 125 other people. He paid €1,000 for the trip and left because “there is no liberty, no democracy – it’s still Ben Ali’s old guard ruling the country.”

Refugees are coming not only from Tunisia, of course, but also Libya. According to some reports, more than 400,000 such refugees have passed through Libyan borders into Niger, Chad, Sudan, Algeria, and Egypt. With Egypt also on a very shaky footing following the recent ouster of Hosni Mubarak, it’s difficult to imagine a lasting sanctuary there.

The flight of displaced refugees through Italy into other European nations has caused a growing rift between the leaders of those countries. On April 17 2011, ten trains carrying Tunisian refugees were stopped at the border by French officials, citing reasons of “public order”, fearing demonstrations inside their country. An April 17 Yahoo news article said: “Italy has been giving temporary residence permits to many of the roughly 26,000 Tunisians who have gone to Italy to escape unrest in northern Africa in recent weeks.” “France says it will honor the permits only if the migrants prove they can financially support themselves and it has instituted patrols on the Italian border – unprecedented since the introduction of the Schengen travel-free zone – bringing in about 80 riot police last week. Germany has said it would do the same.” ( In addition, it is now being reported that France and Italy have agreed to joint sea-and-air patrols to block any new North African migrants from sailing to Italy, including the Italian island of Lampedusa. In light of the state of Europe’s economy, the ebb and flow of tens of thousands of people between these countries places acute and unexpected pressure on an already strained political and economic infrastructure. Thus far, according to the EU Observer: “the EU and the Member States have mobilized around € 71 million and more aid is being considered.”

Bribery hasn’t worked, either. According to the EU Observer: “European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso on 13 April promised Tunisia €140 million of extra EU aid if the new government takes “strong and clear action” to prevent its citizens from leaving for Europe and take back the thousands that have already made it to Italy – which Tunisia has so far already made it to Italy – which Tunisia has so far refused.” (“revolutions”-ii-immigration-explosion-eu-members-protesting-wasted-tax-money-eu-war-threats-to-“closed-societies”/)

An “us” (Europeans) vs. “them” (Muslims) situation is developing. It was foreseen as early as last summer. Andrew Brons, MEP from the British National Party, addressing the European Union Parliament on June 20, 2010 said: “The problem is that the EU hasn’t faced up to globalization; it’s embraced it,” he said. “It’s allowed a flood of imports from developing economies with wage rates a fraction of those in Europe. The only way in which we could possibly regain competitiveness would be to drive wage rates down to their levels.” “However, my message is also for Europhiles: Europe, either as a whole, or separately, will fail to protect its manufacturing and it agriculture from Third World competition at its peril. Globalization must be resisted individually or collectively or it will destroy us all,” Mr. Brons said. “Replacing Europeans with people from the Third World will mean that Europe will be replaced by the Third World. Europe is slowly but steadily being ethnically cleansed of Europeans.” (

I sympathized with my friend Riccardo, mentioning the challenges we have been faced with in the United States with a seemingly unfettered flow of undocumented immigration across our southern border. He was quick to point out, though, that Mexicans illegally crossing into the United States are predominantly Roman Catholic. “They don’t blow themselves and others up with suicide vests,” he pointed out. “If Europe will not change, 40 years from now we will be the next battle field against terrorism. We are slowly dying.”

As the demonstrations across North Africa turn into riots and government overthrows, things continue to devolve in the adjacent countries, and the repercussions are increasingly sweeping across Europe. Like American politicians who refuse to deal aggressively with the illegal immigration problem along our southern border, Riccardo says, European politicians are reluctant to take action to protect their own sovereignty. “Politicians are the same everywhere”, he says, “they don’t want to take responsibility. They plan and plan and never make a decision. It is the same all over the world except in China. When they decide to do something they do it quickly.”

I think there’s a lot of truth in what Riccardo is saying here.

What do you think?

5 Responses to “Europe’s Reaction to the North African Refugee Tsunami: “We are slowly dying here””

  1. Marie Luft says:

    Yes, we all know that the one constant in this world is Change. It’s very hard to keep up these days. On the one hand, we are raised thinking that we must help others and even send missionaries around the world espousing that message … on the other, we are being overwhelmed by people coming into Our country and changing Our lifestyle; naturally we are resistant to that.

    Co-incidentally, our local paper just ran a series of articles on refugees in the QC. They are from the Congo, and other places in Africa as well as Asian countries. Challenges are language (French, Arabic, Burmese, Nepali and Swahili) and jobs (so far, Tysons and Jumers). This in addition to the large Latino population.

    I guess my only complaint about all this is that we should Insist on One language in the U.S. My grandparents came here from Sweden around 1900. My mother started grade school and she could only speak Swedish so she was sent home on her first day. Whatever happened to that ? Anyone living in the U.S. should adopt the English language …..

    • Thanks for your post, Marie. I think there are two lessons from your story: 1) If you’re immigrating to the United States – or nywhere else for that matter – you need to do it leagally. 2) Every country should support one language in their signage, documents, and the conduct of business and commerce. It’s an essential element of national sovreignty.

    • Riccardo says:

      Dear Marie, i’m Italian and i’ve been in USA for a part-time job experience.
      I agree with you totally. when i was there i didn’t want meet italians because i wanted live as an american and learn american stylelife.
      there are are not many things to develop the integration process: the immigrant must lear:
      2) respect the law
      3) and the balance between right and duties….

  2. Marie Luft says:

    Nice to meet you, Riccardo. I hope I don’t embarrass son, Bill, by expressing my opinion now and then. You probably understand how us older folks like to do that. …

    Sounds like your country, as well as France and England especially, really have your hands full. I hope and pray that someone is wise enough to sort it all out.

  3. Marie Luft says:

    FYI an update by Alma Gaul in today’s QC Times with regard to “expatriates” living in Rock Island, IL. They have created 8 citizen “study circles” to address issues of their refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and numerous African countries; came up with 7 top needs identified but now the hard part of identifying what person or entity would take on the goals and time frames. The model for the study circles came from Everyday Democracy, a Connecticut based non-partisan, non-profit organization that works with communities on public issues.

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