Mediterranean Migration CrisisThe migrant boat shipwreck occurring in Italy on February 26, 2023, serves as a reminder that stronger action is necessary to address the Mediterranean migration crisis. Thousands of migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat with the hope of a better future. However, the Mediterranean is a deadly route for migrants, with more than 26,000 people missing or dead since 2014.

The EU’s response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has been criticized for falling short in addressing and collaborating on the issue. Numbers of experts posit that the prioritization of borders over human lives is an uncomfortable truth that must be confronted as the deadly waters continue to claim the lives of those seeking a future free from poverty, war and violence.

Migrant Boat Shipwreck in Italy

The migrant boat shipwreck in Italy led to at least 63 confirmed deaths, including women and children. The migrants had hoped to land near Crotone in search of a new life free from poverty. About 200 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Iran boarded the boat, which had set out from Izmir, Turkey a few days before the shipwreck.

Due to high poverty rates and extreme living conditions in countries like Afghanistan, people are seeking better opportunities through migration. The economic collapse in Afghanistan, worsened by the Taliban’s seizure of power and international donors suspending non-humanitarian funding has created a humanitarian crisis. As of mid-2021, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that 2.7 million Afghans were displaced across borders worldwide. 

The loss of lives in this incident serves as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive solutions to the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Recent data shows a noteworthy surge in migrant arrivals in Italy compared to the same months in 2021-2022, with the figures tripling. While the peak of the migrant crisis in the EU was witnessed between 2014-2017, this year has seen a steep increase in arrivals, with Ivorians, Guineans, and Bangladeshis being the most represented nationalities.

Many migrants originate from countries with high poverty rates, including Cote d’Ivoire, which experienced a 6.7% rise in GDP in 2022, yet more than 11% of its population lived below the international poverty line. Similarly, extreme weather events and other factors have led to 35 million people continuing to live below the poverty line, as per recent reports.

Taking Action to Resolve the Mediterranean Migration Crisis

The Global Route-Based Migration Programme, initiated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 2021, aims to improve the safety and dignity of people on the move, including migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced individuals, along land and sea-based migration routes in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and the Americas.

The program seeks to support 4.7 million people on the move and people in host communities annually by utilizing the expertise and reach of 57 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide. It is a tool that can be used to address the migration crisis and improve coordination and collaboration among organizations and governments, while also enhancing support and access to essential needs such as food, water, shelter, information and health care.

The Path Forward

Addressing the root causes of migration and providing support to those in need requires a collaborative effort. In a bilateral meeting on the aftermath of the migrant boat shipwreck in Italy, during a March 2023 EU summit in Brussels, French President Macron and Italian Prime Minister Meloni discussed the need for a common European solution to manage migration and aid those in need. While migration policy has been a point of tension between the two countries in the past, this meeting signifies a step toward finding common ground and working together to address the complex challenges of migration in Europe.

– Elena Maria Puri
Photo: Flickr

Health and Human Rights of RefugeesOne of the most important factors in beating the coronavirus is ensuring that everybody has access to public health. According to The New Humanitarian, this has pushed numerous governments to double down on their efforts to protect the health and human rights of refugees, migrant workers and asylum seekers who may have not been able to afford access to these services pre-COVID.

In March as the worldwide outbreaks quadrupled and human rights organizations around the world urged governments the dangers the coronavirus would impose on refugees and asylum seekers. The World Health Organization, the UNHCR and several other organizations put out a joint press release that pressured governments to release migrants and undocumented individuals from immigration detention centers as well as include them in public health relief efforts. Here are three countries that have prioritized protecting the health and human rights of refugees during COVID-19. They show that these policies could be sustained even beyond the crisis.

Countries Protecting the Health and Human Rights of Refugees During COVID-19

  1. Italy: Italy has one of the highest infection rates with 238,159 confirmed cases and 34,514 deaths. Italy’s fields have also attracted migrant workers from Eastern Europe. On May 13, the Italian government passed an amnesty law allowing around 200,000 migrant workers and undocumented refugees to apply for healthcare and 6-month legal residency permits. The downside of this new step is that the bill only applies to agricultural workers, leaving out many of the workers in the informal sector who perform labor in construction or food services.
  2. Portugal: Migrants and asylum seekers in Portugal with applications that are still in process are now being granted early access to public services that include welfare, rental contracts, bank accounts and national health service. Claudia Veloso, the spokesperson for Portugal’s chapter of the Ministry of International Affairs, told Reuters that “people should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not been processed yet.”
  3. Brazil: Brazil has the highest rate of outbreaks second to the United States, and President Jair Bolsonaro has continuously dismissed the severity of the virus and failed to respond effectively to outbreaks. So, it has fallen to local community organizations, donors and local authorities to enforce these regulations and double down on the effort to get everybody treated. The Paraisópolis community group started running a quarantine center in partnership with health workers, NGOs and medical centers. The center has around 240 volunteers monitoring the health of at least 50 families at a time. It acquired sanitation supplies and personal protection equipment through crowdfunding. The group is providing food and medical aid to undocumented migrants.

Amnesty International stated that in order to fix the refugee crisis “the world urgently needs a new, global plan based on genuine international cooperation and a meaningful and fair sharing of responsibilities.” Policy experts are hopeful that these new policies will help governments to consider new possibilities for a more humane approach to helping displaced migrants and asylum seekers in the future. The health and human rights of refugees need to be protected.

Isabel Corp
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sardinia
Sardinia, Italian Sardegna, is an Italian island in the mediterranean sea that is no stranger to poverty. The economic hardship increased after the 2008 recession. Beginning in 2010, a variety of workers and artisans found themselves at risk of losing their jobs. For example, shepherds and independent farmers were losing business to larger farming companies and small entrepreneurs and independent contractors had to compete with privatization. So, they took to the streets of the regional capital city in Cagliari in protest. Now, Italy is looking to sustainable development and ecotourism to alleviate poverty in Sardinia.

Poverty Overall

Italy really began showing signs of economic recovery in 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, its GDP went up 0.5 percent, business morale was at its highest in a decade and export volumes had risen 2.8 percent over the first eight months of the year. The economic recovery, however, has not played out evenly. Life is getting worse for many Italians. The number of Italians living in extreme poverty had increased from 4.7 million in 2016 to 5 million by the end of 2017 despite that fact that the economic recovery has slowly been gaining traction on a macro level.

Poverty in Sardinia did not skip a beat. The percent of poor individuals living in Sardinia increased from 16 percent in 2016 to 21.4 percent in 2017, according to ISTAT. To compound the issue, the unemployment rate in Sardinia was 17 percent in 2017, which was considerably higher than Italy’s overall 11 percent rate in 2017. The island suffers from high emigration, a negative rate of population growth and a low population density of 40 inhabitants per square mile, which is almost one-third of the average in Italy.

Despite the issue of poverty in Sardinia, the inhabitants of the island live a very long time, especially in the village of Tiana where the proportion of centenarians is found to be 3 times higher than in other parts of Italy. Researchers believe this is true because of the social fabric of the region. The elderly in Tiana tend to lead longer and happier lives because of the degree of social interaction they enjoy. Italy is working to improve condition on the island by capitalizing on the history and culture of the region.

Efforts to Combat Poverty in Sardinia

To combat poverty in Sardinia and promote economic development, the country has embraced a model of sustainable development. In 2013, the island became the first sustainable destination in the Mediterranean. Part of Sardinia’s commitment to sustainability comes from the fact that the island is a huge promoter of green energy, hosting more than 2000 companies in the green supply chain and using renewable energies through its numerous wind and solar farms.

Ecotourism is gaining momentum on the island. Almost 200,000 more tourists visited the Sardinia in April and May 2017 than in the previous year during the same time. Sardinia’s beautiful coasts boast nearly unspoiled beaches and reefs. Tourists can go diving to see the protected marine life or one of the many underwater archeological sites in the region. There are a variety of things to do and see on the different islands in Sardinia depending on the interests of the tourists.

Tourism in the summer months is very popular and helps to combat low employment rates. The ecotourists and elites that visit the island during the summer months bring employment and capital to the coastal regions of the island, but the interior does not benefit from summer tourism. Sardinians living in the interior have recently taken strides to develop a cultural tourism industry. Sardinians who live in the interior believe there is an opportunity for increased tourism since the heritage of the island–cultural, linguistic, artistic and musical–has been fiercely preserved. They have begun attracting tourists to the interior by hosting successful festivals that draw out the unique characteristics of each region.

Although there is still a significant number of people living in poverty in Sardinia, efforts are underway to greatly alleviate the situation by capitalizing on the island’s beauty and rich cultural history. Ecotourism and sustainable energy are going a long way to improve the living conditions in Sardinia and bring in new business opportunities to continue building a prosperous economy.

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in Italy
The cost of living in Italy can be rather high in some ways when compared to the U.S., but less costly in others. Whether the topic is food, clothing, housing or entertainment, living in Italy varies in its levels of expense.

Here are eight facts about the cost of living in Italy:

  1. In U.S. dollars, on average, the monthly rent for a 900-square foot apartment in Italy is around $1,079. A 480-square foot apartment in a cheaper area stands at around $732 per month. This varies from city to city.
  2. It costs around $444 to buy a 40″ flat screen TV in Italy. Depending on the brand, this is rather high compared to the cost of a 40″ flat screen TV in the U.S.
  3. The cost of living in Italy greatly depends on what area of Italy a person is living in. For example, renting an apartment in the city of Milan can cost up to double of what an apartment in Naples would cost.
  4. It is cheaper to buy locally in Italy, rather than to purchase imported items. This is not only beneficial in the aspect of saving money, but it is also a way to support the locals as well.
  5. Big Macs cost around $9.40 in Italy. This is almost $4 more than the cost in the U.S.
  6. Healthcare is free to people who live in Italy. Citizens have the option of paying extra for private healthcare options, but this is not required. This is certainly one of the biggest financial pros of living in Italy.
  7. A medicine that seems to be more expensive in Italy is ibuprofen. In Italy, one pill costs around $1.18, meaning that it costs around $28.32 to get a 24-count bottle of ibuprofen. Name brand 24-count ibuprofen sells for as low as only $3.48 in the U.S. and other countries.
  8. When it comes to travel expenses, citizens have to consider that there are a lot of tolls to pay when traveling by vehicle in Italy. This, combined with the costs of fuel, makes for a rather expensive automobile trip.

These facts about the cost of living in Italy show that there are both pros and cons when it comes to finances for those living in Italy. While some cities in this European country are more expensive than others, it still appears that the cost of living in Italy can be affordable thanks to larger perks such as its free health care benefits.

Noel Mcdavid

Photo: Pixabay

Nine Facts and Figures About Migration to Italy
Political instability is a strong driving force behind poverty and unemployment, and Italy has served as a gateway for a better quality of life for political refugees. Since the mid-twentieth century, Italy has been a hub for international migration, as the Italian peninsula bears proximity to the Middle East, Afric, and former USSR countries, and offers easy access to continental Europe. The following paragraphs include facts and figures about the history of migration to Italy, who has migrated to Italy and how the Italian government has handled immigration.

The first large refugee population in Italy came from Tunisia in the 1980s. Tunisians who had formerly migrated to France for labor opportunities began to flock to nearby Italy to work in its informal economy. Lampedusa and Sicily, both Italian islands (the former being only 70 miles from Tunisia) became the leading destinations for Tunisian refugees.

Following the Tunisians were female migrants from Catholic countries in South America and northern Africa who were employed in housework or as waitresses.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, refugees began to come from Romania, Albania and Ukraine to escape political instability. Over time, this new wave of refugees changed the ethnic makeup of migrants to Italy. In 2003, eastern European refugees dominated half the regions in Italy while northern African refugees dominated the other half, separating the two migrant groups. By 2014, however, every area was dominated by either Romanian, Albanian or Ukrainian migrants.

In recent years, Italy has made attempts to discourage refugees from entering the country. In 2008, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Moammar Gadhafi signed the “Treaty of Friendship” in which Itay promised to invest $5 billion in Libyan infrastructure projects in exchange for a drastic decrease in illegal immigration from Libya. The migration from Libya spiked again in 2011 after Gadhafi was overthrown. In 2012, Italy faced harsh criticism from the European Court of Human Rights for signing similar bilateral agreements with migrants’ countries of origins that allowed for the quick deportation of refugees.

In November 2013, however, the Italian Navy enacted a search-and-rescue program called Mare Nostrum, following a tragic boat accident one month prior that killed 349 asylum seekers. In one year, this program rescued more than 160,000 people. The program got abandoned in October 2014 after receiving criticism from the European Union for encouraging migration across the Mediterranean.

In 2015, Italy was second to Germany for the highest number of refugees seeking asylum, with 122,960 applicants.

The overwhelming majority of immigrants to Italy are men ages 18 to 34. In 2016, 85,570 men within this age range migrated to Italy, comprising 70% of migrants to Italy that year. This group of migrants largely included migrant workers who sent remittances to their families in their home countries.

In 2017, the Minister of the Interior, Marco Minniti, issued a decree that enforced stringent guidelines on the rights of asylum seekers in Italy. First, migrants who were denied asylum in Italy would lose their right to appeal the decision. Second, the process for seeking asylum was modified so that it would be a summary proceeding instead of a full chamber proceeding. In this case, the judge would no longer hear the asylum seeker’s interview before granting or denying asylum.

This information about migration to Italy demonstrates how a developed country may choose to respond to an ongoing refugee crisis. While the Italian government has made substantial efforts to repatriate migrants, projects such as Mare Nostrum have had a positive impact by saving thousands of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering their proximity to northern Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the Italian government must decide whether it is their responsibility to assist refugees who are escaping the internal crisis.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Italians, the descendants of the water-savvy and water-loving Romans, still maintain a potable supply of drinking water today. Overall, the water quality in Italy is excellent. Italy’s drinking water is safe to drink and widely available, with public fountains running fresh drinking water throughout many major cities.

These fountains, called “nasoni,” which means “big noses” in Italian, provide high-quality and free drinking water in cities like Rome and Florence for locals and tourists alike. Florence regulates its water with a strict code of 61 parameters. Florentine officials examine the chemicals in the water and its microbiology using these parameters to ensure potability.

Both rural and urban populations in Italy have 100 percent access to improved water sources, making water quality in Italy superb, even better than the United States, which comes in at 99 percent access to improved water sources.

Although all Italians have access to improved water sources, the water quality in Italy does vary slightly by city. Naples, for example, has lower quality water than most other major Italian cities. The water in Naples “may be safe to drink” according to a tourist water safety website. However, strains of local E. coli are present within Naples’ tap water. Locals are accustomed to these strains of E. coli, but tourists and other visitors are not. Therefore, the water is safe for locals, but visitors require a transition period in order to drink the water without experiencing unpleasant after-effects, such as diarrhea.

The inferiority of Naples’ drinking water compared to other Italian cities could be due to the toxic waste and immense pollution in Naples. Some claim that the mafia dumped hazardous industrial waste on agricultural lands outside of Naples, creating pollution problems. More obvious pollutants are the immense piles of garbage lining the streets of Naples and the litter on its surrounding farmlands.

Although pollution threatens health and safety standards in Naples, the city fights against it by cleaning up dirtied areas and installing spaces for outdoor recreation. By 2014, the city of Naples created a larger beachfront for pedestrian use and a bicycle lane lining its coast. Additionally, large portions of Naples’ bay have been cleaned, allowing for swimmers to retake the water.

Decreasing pollution creates tangibly increased standards of health and safety, including better water quality in Italy. Additionally, reigning in pollution increases the quality of living for residents of a city, as it provides greener and more appealing outdoor spaces, encouraging physical activity for its residents.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

10 facts about Italy refugees
Italy has become one of the top destinations for refugees, or asylum seekers, over the past few years. Many of its current refugees transport via boat, crossing the Mediterranean Sea on their way to find peace. Here are 10 facts about Italy refugees:

  1. In 2016, Italy broke its record of asylum seekers admitted from the Mediterranean, at close to 200,000 for the year.
  2. Eighty-five percent of these migrants were from African countries, including Nigeria, Eritrea, and Sudan.
  3. More than 176,000 refugees are in reception centers.
  4. October and November were record-breaking months for Italy, with more refugees making the sea voyage than in previous years. This was partially due to better sea conditions.
  5. Better sea conditions resulted in more people traveling on a single boat, which also resulted in more deaths. Almost 5,000 people died at sea in 2016, compared to fewer than 4,000 the previous year.
  6. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that more than 85 percent of migrants arriving in Italy through the Mediterranean started their journey in Libya.
  7. In September 2016, European countries agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, to help ease the heavy loads that these two countries carry — only 4,000 were displaced.
  8. Some Italy refugees perform volunteer community service — sweeping the streets, cleaning up parks and maintaining gardens.
  9. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 26,000 unaccompanied minors made the trek to Italy last year.
  10. The Italian government is constructing a plan to integrate asylum seekers into the workforce while they are waiting in the reception centers.

Attempts to get help from other European countries to lessen the load on Italy have fizzled out over the past few years. As a result, the Italian government strains to make providing aid to those who flee from turmoil possible. These 10 facts about Italy refugees illustrate the difficulties, and the opportunities, that this mass displacement presents for all countries.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Italy attracts thousands of tourists because of its food, history and beautiful coastlines. However, the diseases that Italians are prone to are often overlooked. In 2012, certain diseases resulted in 613,520 deaths in Italy. Here is a quick overview of the top Italian diseases.

Heart Diseases

Ischemic heart disease took the lives of 75,098 Italians in 2012. Other types of heart diseases killed 48,384 Italians in 2012. In general, heart conditions accounted for 30 percent of all deaths in Italy that year. Symptoms of ischemic heart disease include recurrent chest pain and discomfort due to a lack of blood flow to the heart.  Ischemic heart disease develops when cholesterol particles accumulate on artery walls that supply blood to the heart. Eventually, the arteries become clogged, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

Cerebrovascular Diseases

 Cerebrovascular diseases have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italians. Cerebrovascular diseases refer to all disorders in a specific area of the brain that is impacted by ischemia or bleeding. Strokes and aneurysms are common examples of cerebrovascular diseases.


Trachea, bronchus and lung cancer killed 33,538 Italians in 2012. Such cancers were the second causing cause of death for men in that year. Each of these cancers impacts the lungs and throat area of the body and are caused by smoking.

The top Italian diseases generally result from poor lifestyle decisions, such as lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. The most common diseases in the country can be prevented if Italians commit to making simple lifestyle changes. Proper lifestyle choices can help decrease the prevalence of these diseases and can allow many Italians to enjoy their beautiful country and culture for longer periods of time.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Amidst facing a humanitarian crisis and lack of mine regulations, Ukraine received aid totaling one million euros from Italy through the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF to help those impacted by the actions in Eastern Ukraine in 2017. The donation will help the WFP provide basic necessities and humanitarian assistance Ukrainians need to combat hunger, while also fighting against their own government and people.

Among a population of 45.2 million, more than 4.4 million Ukrainians have been impacted, and more than 3.8 million still need humanitarian assistance.

Who the Donation Will Help Most

“Our contribution to WFP and UNICEF operations will help ease people’s suffering, in particular for the most vulnerable, providing food assistance, increasing knowledge and building safe behaviour practices to deal with the risk of mines,” said Davide La Cecilia, the Italian Ambassador to Ukraine in a press release published by the WFP.

Thanks to Italy’s donation, UNICEF will help protect 500,000 children and their guardians from the dangers in mines by supporting the mine risk education program.

The WFP plans to help those who do not receive assistance from other humanitarian actors and further small-scale recovery activities, such as providing food, to aid local citizens. UNICEF will use the funding to promote children’s education programs and for families living in areas close to the contact line, which divides the government and non-government controlled areas and where the fighting is most intense.

Giancarlo Stopponi, WFP deputy country director in Ukraine, said, “WFP greatly appreciates Italy’s support at a time when communities across Ukraine continue to experience the negative consequences of the conflict.”

The WFP has been aiding those experiencing hunger in Ukraine since 2014 by providing emergency food services to internally displaced citizens in Eastern Ukraine, handing out monthly food packages and food assistance. To this day, about 850,000 of most Eastern Ukraine’s most vulnerable people have received food from WFP, despite attempts to bar humanitarian staff.

Ongoing Efforts to Battle Hunger

The program plans to continue its efforts, aiming to assist 220,000 citizens in Eastern Ukraine. These people both rely on and need WFP’s food assistance, along with their other operations, such as the Logistic Cluster Support to the Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

In 2017, UNICEF has appealed to the U.S. for $31.3 million to be used towards combatting hunger in Ukraine. The money will be used for health and nutrition needs, education, water, hygiene and sanitation, and protection for those most vulnerable to the conflict, such as children and families.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Food Waste in Italy
Each year, about one-third of the food produced worldwide, 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted — enough to feed the one billion people who are malnourished and two billion more. Including food waste in Italy and France, the food wasted in Europe alone could provide for 200 million people.

“The problem is simple — we have food going to waste and poor people who are going hungry,” French politician Arash Derambarsh said to the Independent.

France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from disposing of unsold foods and require them to instead donate the products to charities and food banks. The Italian Parliament has become the second to introduce food waste reform.

In contrast to its French counterparts, however, Italy’s bill rewards supermarkets for helping reduce food waste instead of punishing them for not doing their part.

Current law requires stores to declare each donation five days in advance, preventing supermarkets from giving away excess. Once the new bill becomes law, markets will only need to submit a document detailing what was given at the end of the month. The donations will go to public authorities and non-profit organizations.

The new legislation also allows markets to donate mislabeled food products if the expiration date and allergy information are properly indicated. A food education program for schools, a national awareness campaign and a take-out system for restaurants will follow within the next three years.

According to La Reppublica, 43 percent of food waste in Italy happens at the consumer’s home. Each person wastes an average of 76 kilograms per year, costing the country $18 million. Maruzio Martina, the Italian agriculture minister, said he hopes to increase Italy’s food recovery from 550 million tons to 1 billion.

Many hope the bill will not only reduce food waste in Italy but also benefit the 6 million Italians living in poverty who rely on donations to survive.

The waste-bill, brainchild of Italian member of parliament Maria Chiara Gadda, has received bipartisan support, and was passed in the Senate on August 2.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr