People at Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea
[[File:Boat People at Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.jpg|Boat People at Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea]]

How Italy’s fascist past echoes in migrant crisis

Geography is, in part, destiny for Italy: The country will always be a bridge between Africa and Europe, as the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean so starkly shows.

A surge of refugees this year, usually transported by smugglers on overcrowded vessels, has sought to reach Europe via the Libyan coast. A boatload of 900 migrants who embarked from Libya are now feared dead in the latest sinking. Over 10,000 were rescued off the coast of Italy in the last week alone. European leaders are scrambling to deal with this emergency.

There is a backstory here worthy of our attention, and it has to do with Italy’s colonial past. Many of the refugees involved in recent disasters come from some of Italy’s former colonies in North and East Africa, namely Eritrea (occupied from 1890-1941) and Somalia (1908-1941). As migrants, Libyans are fewer in number, but Libya (1912-1941) plays a central role in the current crisis as the main departure point for Italy.

Italy’s empire never rivaled that of the British and the French in scope and longevity, but those who lived in its possessions were no less affected. Indeed, the migrants traversing the Mediterranean today form part of a century-long chain of migrations, expulsions, and exiles sparked by Italy’s imperial ambition and commercial interests, the post-colonial anger of African leaders, and now mass economic desperation and political strife.

Long after the formal end of Italian colonialism, these Eritreans, Somalis, and Libyans have inherited the histories of influence and exploitation that shaped their home countries. It also affects the treatment of Africans who settle in Italy.

Read the entire essay at CNN.

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