Migration policies, nationalist and xenophobic forces, networking between progressive political forces and civil society, opposition to hatred and intolerance and the value of non-violence. We discussed this with Elly Schlein, MEP for Possibile’ and rapporteur for her S&d Group (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) for the reform of the Dublin Regulation.

Statements from the recent meeting between Salvini and Orban suggest that from the controversy over a Europe that cannot cope with immigrants, we are moving to a tougher, Australian position, namely to stop immigration at all costs. What do you think? Is there still room for reform of the Dublin Regulation?

The position of rejection of immigrants by the Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) is nothing new and is the only point on which we can weld this paradoxical Salvini-Orban axis. It is an instrumental project and all at the expense of Italy, sacrificing the country’s interests on the altar of an alliance with nationalist forces that want to solve global and complex problems and challenges by returning to the past, to national borders. And so it is really absurd to seek alliances with those who, like Hungary, have not made a single relocation of immigrants.

The Australian model, apart from being uncivilised, is not applicable to an area such as the Mediterranean, close to many war scenarios and to the outsourcing of borders, as has been done with Turkey and which it would like to do with several African countries, results in a greater violation of human rights and new, ever more dangerous routes to Italy and Greece.

There would still be room for reform of the Dublin Regulation: qualified majority voting by the largest and most populous European countries would suffice, without the need for unanimity, and the recognition that an issue such as that of immigrants can only be resolved through cooperation and solidarity. Another fundamental point is to understand that the inertia of the European governments, first and foremost the German and French governments, has allowed and favoured xenophobic and nationalist advance and also that the right-wing policies carried out by governments in centre-left theory have ended up strengthening the right itself.

Right-wing and populist forces have been able to understand the insecurity and fear of the future of so many people, actually due to systematic cuts in health, pensions and education and work, when there are, increasingly precarious, to present themselves as the defenders of the Italians ignored by a distant and indifferent left and put all the blame on the immigrants. How can we reverse this narrative and come out of the toxic division between “us” and “them”?

The game of using the foreigner as a scapegoat for all evils is ancient and was first-hand experienced by the Italians, who were singled out as criminals when they emigrated. It is also a “weapon of mass distraction” that must be denounced, used to hide the lack of real answers to social problems such as poverty and inequality, which continue to grow, while wealth is increasingly concentrated in a few hands. “First the Italians” is a false slogan that hides the lack of real measures to hit the real people responsible for this situation, for example, multinationals and tax evaders.

To tear down this narrative, first of all, we need a “real operation” on migrants: Italy is the country where the perception of their presence is more distorted than the real data. In addition, some concrete steps need to be taken in the short term: the reform of the Dublin Regulation (voted in November 2017 in the European Parliament by a two-thirds majority to abolish the hypocritical criterion of the obligation to seek asylum in the first country of access and replace it with a compulsory and automatic relocation mechanism, so that all European countries can do their part), which ran aground at the European Council meeting at the end of June, the creation of legal and secure access routes for all European countries and for all migrants, without the absurd distinction between economic migrants and those fleeing war. In Italy this means nullifying the Bossi-Fini law, which in practice has prevented any form of legal entry into the country. And then reinforce the SPRAR model of generalized reception, involving local authorities, leaving the logic of emergency and seeking greater transparency. Another level of intervention to appease the war among the poor consists of measures to combat inequality, poverty, and social exclusion.

I was recently in Uganda and there I could see this model being applied, with interventions targeted at Ugandans and refugees alike. And finally, stop this infamous war against NGOs, which have only compensated for the lack of a real European search and rescue mission at sea.

Of course, we also need to talk about broader issues, such as a different foreign policy, excluding the sale of arms to countries that are in conflict or that are known to have violated human rights.

How do you see the way to oppose the climate of hatred, intolerance and violence fuelled by Salvini and his European allies and to put forward alternative political proposals? How can we network’ civil society with progressive political forces and find ways of mutual support, both nationally and internationally?

In fact, nationalist and xenophobic forces have been able to unite and form a united front, while, on the other hand, there is a lack of equal strength. We need a progressive and ecological front both at European and Italian level, which is neither with the ruling class that produced this situation, nor with the sovereigns. Perhaps the only positive effect of this alarming drift is that more and more people feel the need to react and move. One example is #EuropeanSolidarity, the mobilisation on 27 June of 170 European cities to ask governments to do their part in the reception, to change the Dublin Regulation and to open legal and safe ways to accede to the Union.

It is necessary to oppose national egoisms and, on the part of the parties, to humbly reconnect the threads of the connection with civil society, to put oneself at the disposal of the social forces without pretending to lead them and trying to accompany them. Anyone who feels the need to demonstrate must do so, using many different forms, not just mobilisations, by returning to participate actively in parties and associations. It is not only a political and social work, but also a cultural one.

At a time when violence is spreading in all its forms, what value does nonviolence have for you?

For me, nonviolence has a fundamental value because “it never goes out of fashion,” like peace. Faced with the brutality of propaganda that uses hatred towards foreigners and favours the numerous episodes of physical violence that have occurred in recent times, it is essential not to fall into a trap by giving equally violent responses. Today, anyone who shows solidarity and defends the rights of all is under attack, while those who fill their mouths with the word “security” do not respond to fears and insecurity for the future, making society less secure in practice. Nonviolence acts exactly in the opposite direction and makes possible a better and safer society for all.

In short, I believe that today, more than ever, we have to roll up our sleeves and, as Gandhi said, be the change we want to see in the world.


Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London