Lampedusa map

POLITICS: Lampedusa, Italy shows America the future of lawless immigration

The tiny Italian island of Lampedusa should be a holiday paradise. The most southerly territory of Italy lies exactly between that country and north Africa.

With a population of around 6,000, beautiful beaches, bars and restaurants it should be the perfect island get-away.

But in recent years it has become a nightmare. And a petri dish for the problems that we are all going to go through in the 21st century. Especially America.

The island’s history was always tricky. In the 1500s North African pirates raided the island, stole the whole population and took them off into slavery.

But today it has become one of the easiest landing points for people from Africa to make it into Europe.

When I was last there, seven years ago, I saw the boats coming in and spoke to the arrivals as they landed. The locals were tolerant of the new arrivals pouring in. The Pope, among others, told them to accept the incomers.

But the authorities knew you couldn’t just keep these arrivals on the island. It was too easy to swamp the place. So the island’s holding camps tended to be emptied fast, with migrants taken north to Sicily, then to the Italian mainland and from there allowed to roam through Europe and settle where they wished.

In 2015-16 more than a million people came into Europe through this and similar routes.

With a population of around 6,000, Lampedusa is a perfect island getaway.
NY Post composite

This summer has seen another historic surge. This week, more than 8,000 migrants arrived in less than 48 hours. They came on 160 different boats in a little over a day. Meaning that there were more illegal migrants than residents in just two days.

A local priest described it as “an apocalypse.” Remind you of any New York Mayors recently?

But the priest was right. The island’s population is now completely overwhelmed. Even the aid agencies are buckling. And nobody knows how to cope.

And here there is something that should be stressed. Italy has the most right-wing government it has had for years. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni came to power promising to deal with the problem. But even she — with all her anti-immigration rhetoric and power — seems powerless.

Of course she is. She blames the European Union. But she might as well blame the sky.

Meloni and I are not friendly. She once threatened to sue me, which I regard almost as the defintion of “not friendly.” But she has been as outspoken as she can be on the border problem.

Yet she is also hampered. One of her predecessors, Matteo Salvini, tried to restrict boats from landing while he was in charge of immigration policy. His reward? He has spent recent years being dragged through the courts in Italy for his refusal to let the illegal boats land.

This included charges of “kidnapping” — as though it was the right of illegals to break into Italy.

Why do I relate all this about a tiny island on a far-away continent? Because what is happening in Italy is what is happening in the United States and is a vision of our own future. And the future of the whole developed world.

In recent weeks, we have seen Mayor Adams, Governor Hochul and others come face to face with the reality that they have created.

Like politicians across Northern Europe, they thought that if they talked about the importance of “welcoming all migrants,” “sanctuary cities,” “right to shelter” and much more they would seem lovely and cuddly and liberal. They thought that there was no cost to pay for these policies, only a price to pay if you looked like you were being mean.

And so they — and a whole class of politicians — set off a system which incentivized law-breaking. They actually made it not just possible but desirable to break into America.

Like their European counterparts this made a mockery of the legal systems in place for asylum and work permits there. What is the point of having a vast bureaucracy to deal with legal migration if you also allow illegal migration to just let rip?

The answer is that like their European counterparts it is just easier to not enforce the borders. It is easier to talk about short-term fixes, like work permits for recent arrivals. All the time they ignore the root of the problem.

Every developed world country which has a border or near-border with the developing world is going to be overwhelmed in this century. Movement across countries and continents has never been easier, or cheaper.

Everybody in the world can get a smart phone. And on it they can not only learn of a standard of living they would like to enjoy. They can learn from millions of other people how to get into those countries and enjoy that life.

In the case of Europe, Africa and the Middle East are right on their doorstep. This means hundreds of millions of people who could head into a continent whose population is roughly the size of America’s. A poll taken a couple of years ago found that one third of people in Sub-Saharan Africa want to move to Europe.

America of course has its own neighbors, and the argument goes that they are less culturally different than Africans are to Europeans. And so perhaps the American experiment can work.

But it cannot.

Because the two mistakes that our politicians make are the same mistakes that Europe’s politicians make. They vastly underestimate the number of people who want to come here. And they vastly overestimate our ability to integrate the people who come or make them benefit this country.

Of course it all comes into stark relief in Lampedusa as it does in the border towns of Texas and Arizona. When you fan arrivals from there out across the country you can pretend — for a time — that you have distributed the problem.

But you haven’t. You’ve just put it off for another day. Because a society is not just a petri dish you can experiment upon endlessly. It is a home and a unique place.

If you forget that fact or become lax with it you can put off the consequences for a while. But eventually we’ll all become Lampedusa. Unless we have politicians willing to enforce the law, deter the illegals and return those who have broken the law — whatever the consequences.

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