closed its ports

Recently, Italy‘s newly formed government has closed its ports to migrant ships. The new political atmosphere is run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League party, known for its strong anti-immigration beliefs.

In particular, a rescue ship named Aquarius, which was carrying 629 rescued migrants on board from 26 countries in Africa, was denied entry into an Italian port on June 10. The ship was forced to stay out at sea until another European country, Spain, gave the ship access to its ports the next day.

The new Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also the League’s leader, made the decision to close Italy’s ports. In the past, Salvini has called Sicily “the refugee camp of Europe,” and his actions reflect Italy’s struggle with the high numbers of refugees arriving each week. The Italian government wants Europe as a whole to play a larger role in accepting refugees.

Why Italy Has Closed its Ports

Since 2013, 690,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy. While some may be legal, many are not and 500,000 of them still reside in Italy. Among them are denied asylum seekers and those who have overstayed their visa.

In 2017 alone, 120,000 migrants arrived and the Italian government has estimated that 4.2 billion is the cost of taking them in, roughly $4.9 billion. That figure is divided between caring for asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work, as well as paying for sea rescues and providing medical assistance. This is one of many contributing factors as to why Italy has closed its ports.

Italy’s Changing Relationship to Refugees

In 2017, Italy formed a deal with Libya to enforce Libya’s coastguard in order to keep migrant ships from entering Italy. Since the deal, in the first five months of 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italian ports has dropped to 13,808. This is down 84 percent compared to the same period of time in 2017.

Part of Salvini’s campaign was to repatriate at least 500,000 migrants during his five-year term, as Italians have grown increasingly afraid of migrants and associate higher crime rates to the influx of migrants. Italy has closed its ports as a way to combat this sentiment.

International and National Response

As the nation has closed its ports, mayors across the south of Italy have spoken out against this decision and have pledged to open their ports to these rescue boats. However, without the direct support of the Italian coastguard, it is unlikely that much can be done.

This sentiment, however, gives hope to the changing attitudes toward helping these migrants. It demonstrates that opinions are changing and that people are more interested in saving the lives of refugees, rather than keeping them out.

As a response to Italy having closed its ports, European leaders and humanitarian groups have denounced this decision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Italy and Malta, stating that issues such as these should be addressed after the rescue and that the lives of the migrants should have been put first. Furthermore, Spain and France have offered to help take in the migrants.

As a solution, the European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed regional disembarkment platforms outside of the European Union. This would allow a more manageable way to differentiate between economic migrants and migrants in need of protection. As a result, the strain would be taken off countries such as Italy and allow for a more efficient system, which would benefit E.U. countries, the migrants and public sentiment toward this issue.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Immigrants in DaytonYoussef Farhat spoke energetically about his life and the experiences of refugees and immigrants in Dayton, OH, in an impeccably organized office at the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center. The charismatic 27-year-old graduate student from Lebanon is known around campus for his personable demeanor and palpable enthusiasm.

Farhat wants to immigrate to Dayton and hopes to use his talents to contribute to the U.S. Dayton certainly wants him; the Southwest Ohio city has implemented policies that encourage the population growth of refugees and immigrants.

However, President Donald Trump’s administration has implemented reforms that have affected many of these immigrant-friendly initiatives, making it more difficult for Dayton to attract an international population.

In 2011, the city established “Welcome Dayton,” a coordinated effort among the local government, nonprofits and the private sector to transform Dayton into a “Welcome City.” The community-based initiative has achieved great success. According to its website, naturalization among Dayton’s immigrant population increased by 41 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Refugees and immigrants in Dayton come from more than 100 countries, and the city received an “Outstanding Achievement” designation from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for “Welcome Dayton.”

While the native-born population of Dayton decreased by 15 percent from 2000 to 2010, the foreign-born population has more than doubled since the mid-2000s, helping to stem the population exodus.

Dayton is not a sanctuary city, but it has historically assisted with the relocation of refugees. The city hosts a community of 2,000-3,000 Ahiska Turks who fled persecution in their homeland. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also signaled the city’s intent to help in the relocation of Syrian refugees in September 2015.

Despite this, things are changing. Michael Murphy, the program director of refugee resettlement for Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Miami Valley, said there has been a 15 percent decrease in refugees directly coming to Dayton, individuals referred to as initial arrivals. For fiscal year 2018, CSS is assisting 130 initial arrivals.

This local phenomenon reflects the Trump administration’s decision to allow only 45,000 refugees to resettle in the U.S., the lowest cap in decades.

Nevertheless, Murphy also reported a 20 to 30 percent increase in secondary migrants, refugees who initially resided elsewhere in the U.S., settling in Dayton. Murphy said this shows Dayton is achieving success in creating a diverse and welcoming community.

Farhat agrees Dayton is a welcoming city but also says social changes since the 2016 election are adversely affecting refugees and immigrants in Dayton.

“Not many employers are willing to invest in the talents of international students,” Farhat said. If he doesn’t find a job, his only option is to return to Lebanon. His student visa expires after he graduates.

Though federal reforms have affected refugees and immigrants in Dayton, community organizations remain committed to supporting the burgeoning international population of Dayton by assisting new arrivals and resettled individuals and families. Through their efforts, Dayton continues to be a “Welcome City,” regardless of the presidential administration.

– Sean Newhouse

Photo: Google

Immigrant In-Equality: Causes of Poverty in Liechtenstein

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a country located in Europe that is landlocked between Switzerland and Austria. It is a relatively wealthy country, containing one of the highest measures of GDP per capita in the world, a low inflation rate and the benefits of a monetary and economic union with Switzerland. It therefore has one of the highest standards of living across the globe, although it comes with the trade-off of an extremely high cost of living.

Much of the country’s wealth can be attributed to its status as a tax haven, though it has taken steps in recent years to regulate and rid itself of this image and to reposition itself as a legitimate financial center. Despite the country’s economic successes, there is still poverty to be found here.

The causes of poverty in Liechtenstein become evident when analyzing the immigration policies put in place by the country’s government. In 2013, many media outlets in Europe began to report that the growing immigrant population was composed of many low-income families. This is mainly due to the increased share of the population that are immigrants, with the incomes earned by these immigrants being lower than those of the native population. This has caused the overall income growth of Liechtenstein to be subjected to downward pressure in recent years.

The unemployment rate of immigrants in Liechtenstein is approximately twice as large as it is for national citizens that have lived in Liechtenstein for their entire lives. In terms of how this applies in practice, one in two unemployed persons living in Liechtenstein is an immigrant. Despite these concerns, compared to other European countries, Liechtenstein remains in a prosperous position and the unemployment rate in general is at a very low level. As of 2012, the average unemployment rate faced by the country was 2.4 percent, with the unemployment for national citizens being 1.7 percent, compared to immigrants, who had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.

This is the result of a restrictive immigration policy based on bilateral agreements and clear economic considerations, combined with the insatiable job demand of Liechtenstein’s economy. One of the essential guidelines for immigrants is that there is a requirement for the person immigrating to have the ability to support one’s own cost of living when applying for residence. This means that the onset of poverty usually occurs sometime after having immigrated, with the main reasons for poverty ultimately being unemployment, illnesses, death of an employed family member and excessive indebtedness.

A relevant quote by economist John Kenneth Galbraith rings true with poverty in Liechtenstein, in which he writes, “people are poverty-stricken when their income, even if adequate for survival, falls markedly behind that of the community.” This is one of the main causes of poverty in Liechtenstein and it illustrates an area that can be improved upon, leading to a greater equality of wealth between national citizens and immigrants and less poverty overall.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

Immigration policy and reform have been on the minds of many policymakers for years, not only in the United States, but also, particularly, in Western Europe. The issue is of increasing importance for a variety of reasons, both economic and social. The impact of immigration on populations and nations is significant, but hard to decipher. The impoverished around the world can see both benefits and disadvantages to the phenomenon of immigration across borders.

In the United States, millions of undocumented immigrants live the United States to find work and pursue a better life, often fleeing violence and instability. Europe has also experienced its fair share of immigration troubles, with 137,000 immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life in only 6 months last year. Hundreds of the same immigrants died attempting the journey. These massive quantities of immigrants crossing borders without documentation have posed problems for the countries receiving these people in a variety of ways. In addition, immigration through proper channels can often exacerbate problems posed by undocumented immigrants. First, many of these new residents will join the labor market, and second, the social and cultural differences can create tensions within the populace. So, what does immigration mean for the countries being left behind, and for their inhabitants?

One of the primary dilemmas when discussing immigration is the job market. What happens to the labor market when illegal or legal immigration occurs? The answer is: it’s complicated. The effects of immigration on a country’s labor market is highly dependent on the policies in place, the enforcement of such policies and the context.

Take, for example, a law in Alabama that would have given police more power to find undocumented immigrants and punish their hypothetical employers; immediately, much of the illegal labor fled the state. This was hailed as a victory by some people, but the law exposed fundamental flaws in the labor system. The jobs being done by immigrants were low-wage with questionable working conditions. They usually involved manual labor that Americans either simply did not want to do, or would not do due to the working conditions and pay—which were caused by a lack of proper regulation in these industries. Much of the agriculture and food industry remains this way, with the majority of the population turning a blind eye to the unfair practices taking place. In the case of Alabama, Americans barely attempted to take these jobs, despite unemployment in the region being very high. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that there was a 3.2% decrease in wages directly associated with large-scale immigration. A possible explanation is that immigrants are generally more likely to accept lower wages than native workers, which draws the price for labor downwards with the increased demand and lower price-setting.

In other cases, such as those involving legal immigration with visas, such as H-1B, immigrants end up in more direct competition with native workers for more highly-skilled jobs. The H-1B visas in the United States are very important, providing high levels of talent from across the globe—from both developed and developing nations. The problem is that, in many cases, companies prefer to hire H-1B visa holders because they are usually more willing to accept lower wages, similar to the problem with lower-skilled jobs.

Immigration can also be a cause of social unrest. It is not uncommon for immigrant populations to be framed as the root of a host of problems, ranging from economic ones, to social and moral ones. It has been done in the past, and is undergoing resurgence in Europe, as right-wing political movements shower blame and prejudice on the expanding Middle Eastern and North African populations in the continent. The cultural divide of language and customs can also instigate potential xenophobic behaviors against immigrant populations.

What does this all mean for the poor? Immigrants frequently work low-wage jobs, but these low wages in developed countries often go much further to families in developing nations. Remittances—money sent back to one’s native state—have been found to have a significant impact on the levels of poverty in developing nations. A study by the Center for Immigration Studies also found that in the 2000s, immigration to the United States did not cause increased poverty in the United States. These two studies taken together suggests that poverty can be alleviated with immigration, because immigration can be reduced abroad while not increasing poverty in the new home nation. In fact, there are even some who argue that borders should be open and immigration should not be restricted as a way to help significantly reduce poverty.

Immigration is a difficult issue with which to grapple on any level. It can invoke powerful emotions of fear, pain, anger or happiness from immigrants, or those who feel personally affected by its consequences. The economics of immigration are complicated, and the literature seems to be incomplete in its conclusions. However, it seems that immigration can help the poor by allowing some people abroad to lead better lives and support themselves, while also helping to support their families at home. Unfortunately, the poor can also fall victim to trafficking and bad working conditions. Globally, large-scale migrations of people can be expected to increase due to climate change, and it is important that more effort goes into understanding how to best handle influxes of immigrants.

Martin Yim

Sources: New York Times 1, Bloomberg, New York Times 2, National Bureau of Economic Research, Social Science Research Council, UC Davis
Photo: Immigrant Document Solutions


Understanding poverty in Mexico can help us further understand immigration rates into the United States and how to create more effective policies regarding immigration in the U.S.

Immigrants from Mexico typically have a higher rate of poverty than those who are native to their country, which is referring to American natives. Approximately 25 percent of Mexican born immigrants live in conditions that are considered impoverished while living in the U.S.

This means that many immigrants that migrate to the U.S. are eligible for state-funded programs, despite having immigrant status. This leads to the controversy that many hear about in the U.S. Numerous policies regarding immigration take into consideration that many immigrants are living in poverty, and would be in need of government assistance in order to sustain a normal and healthy life.

Mexican immigrants have been the largest group of immigrants to migrate to the U.S. since the 1980s and therefore, it is not surprising that many immigration policies are directed more so to that group of the population. This is particularly important because this means that policies take into consideration that many immigrations are living in impoverished conditions and will therefore be more dependent on the government.

This is a largely contributing factor to the strict policies regarding immigration and deportation over the last twenty years or so in the U.S. Becoming a U.S. citizen and immigration into the U.S. particularly from Mexico is more difficult than it has ever been and the economic pull has much to do with such strict policies.

Poverty stricken Mexican immigrants have traveled to the U.S. with hopes for more economic prosperity, however, this is often more difficult than many immigrants anticipate. Despite finding minimum wage jobs, if that, many do not make enough money to find themselves or their families living above the poverty line. Therefore, many continue living under a poverty status and are depending on the state and government funding.

Unfortunately, a great deal Mexican immigrants find themselves continuing to live in poverty after leaving their native country, on their journey to live out the American Dream. That being said, the U.S. government has created policies with these conditions and potential outcomes in mind.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute
Photo: Flickr

The current debate surrounding immigration centers largely on their potential detrimental effect on a country (ironically, it is often forgotten that America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was built on the backs of immigrants.) Anti-immigration lobbyists claim they leech culture, take jobs, bleed welfare, and contribute little in return. Contrary to these arguments, there have notable refugees and immigrants in the past who have contributed a great deal to their adopted country; economically, culturally, and scientifically. One such refugee was Albert Einstein.

Though he worked in Princeton, and spent much of his famous academic career there, for much of his youth and at the start of his illustrious career, Einstein lived in his homeland Germany.  As a Jewish German, Einstein was forced into exile after the rise of the Nazis.

Though he himself was admitted to the United States during a time of great political turmoil, and after he had already established himself, the ‘Einstein’ argument is one that is present in immigration reform discussions today. Many state how America’s current immigration policy is exclusive and backwards, and the media focuses on the cost of immigration rather than the potential benefits. Einstein is one of many non-Americans who have contributed significantly to the country – others include Marlene Dietrich (actress), Mikhail Baryshnikov (ballet dancer) and Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropologist). Einstein himself was an advocate for immigration, himself working in aid of individuals seeking asylum in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal picked up on Einstein’s story recently in an op-ed by Darrell West, where he stated: “Today, we need to think about a new “Einstein Principle” for our immigration policy. It would make brains, talent and special skills a priority. The point is to attract more individuals with the potential to enhance American innovation and competitiveness, increasing the odds for economic prosperity and rising living standards for all down the road.

At a time of high unemployment, the most pressing need is for more innovators who will start new businesses and create high-paying jobs. We’ve certainly done so successfully in the past.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: UNHCR, Brookings
Photo: Flickr