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Asylum-seekers: increasing numbers from Nigeria and Pakistan. Why?

The top nationalities for new migrants and asylum-seekers are Nigeria and Pakistan, also because normally migrants are headed towards Countries where they can count on a network of family members and friends. Figures updated to September 9, 2016 show that Nigerian nationals are the largest group – 14,291 out of 75,681 applicants for asylum, while as many as 10,209 come from Pakistan. What are they fleeing from? And what happens after filing an asylum request?

Why are asylum seekers arriving to Italy from Nigeria and Pakistan in increasing numbers? And what happens after they filed an asylum request? A few days ago the national Commission for Asylum Rights released the latest figures on asylum-requests processed to date. In the past two years the largest group of incoming migrants arrived from Nigeria and Pakistan, also because normally, migrants choose Countries where they can count on a network of family members and friends. Figures updated to September 9, 2016 show that out of 75.681 requests, the majority were filed by Nigerian nationals – 14.291 requests – followed by Pakistan (10.209), Gambia, Eritrea (increasing numbers), Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali. Regional Commissions have processed to date 13,555 requests, reducing waiting-time from 250 to 106 days. In reality, from the moment of their arrival to Italy it could take up to one or two years to complete reception schemes, after which a large number of applications are rejected (60-62%) and many applicants lodge an appeal. According to estimates calculated by local associations, a large majority of appeal procedures are successful, although official figures are not available. Thus 40% of applicants who failed to obtain asylum, subsidiary (5-year duration) or humanitarian protection schemes (1 to 3 years), are eventually granted some form of official protection, in most cases on humanitarian grounds. Nonetheless several thousand end up as illegal migrants; they fall victim of precarious living conditions and labour exploitation. They also risk becoming easy preys of organized crime, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking. News outlets recently reported the jailing of 44 Nigerian gangsters based in Piedmont, Northern Italy, charged with drug dealing and human trafficking. Episodes of degradation and violence occurred in the Reception Centre for Asylum seekers (CARA) near the city of Foggia. Many of those who failed to obtain a residence permit of any sort continue their journey towards Northern Europe (the so-called “migrants-in- transit”), and end up being stuck in bottleneck situations in large cities (Como, Milano), and in border towns (Ventimiglia). Despite high numbers of deportation orders, very few are repatriated, in fact, no more than a few thousand. In many cases readmission agreements with departure Countries are lacking. It is not the case of Nigeria, while such agreement is being finalized with Pakistan.

Nigerians: fleeing from violence, hunger and Boko Haram. Nigerians reaching Italy by sea follow the route from West Africa, passing through the desert

They flee from violence, from terrorist attacks, from persecution and clashes between the Islamic fundamentalist group of Boko Haram and the army, from poverty and local devastation caused by the indiscriminate exploitation of national resources, such as oil, gas and precious metals.

“A hurricane of violence, a landscape of blood and destruction”, Nigerian bishops said describing the situation in their Country, coupled by “political violence, corruption, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual murders.” “People are now ravaged by disease and hunger”  – the bishops said – by “the rise in the curve of violence both by the state agents and non-state actors.” Mons. Giancarlo Perego, director-general of the Migrantes Foundation, recalled: “Nigeria registered 7000 murders in 2015, entering the sad record as one of the world Countries with the highest number of terrorist attacks.” As regards the presence of Nigerian organized crime in Italy, often accomplice of Italian Mafia, Monsignor Perego pointed out that “this is not a new phenomenon. It was already known as one of the most powerful criminal organizations.” “All the more reason to step up the protection of Nigerian women who cannot be protected in special reception centres, for they risk being victims of sexual exploitation. It’s the only way to target organized crime.” His view is echoed by Gianfranco Schiavone, President by the Association for Juridical Studies on Migration (ASGI). “Protection schemes for the victims of human trafficking, enacted through Art.18, are failing due to lack of funds”, he denounced. “Although they arrive with barges their exploitation and the criminal networks cannot be uprooted by rejecting asylum requests. It is necessary to give a voice to the victims so they may report the criminals, thereby enabling law enforcement investigation.” Figures released by the Italian Statistics Annual (ISTAT) on January 1st 2016 show that in Italy live over 77 thousand legally registered Nigerian migrants.

Pakistanis: fleeing from political instability, Talibans, and lack of work.   Migrants fleeing from Pakistan

undergo long and dramatic journeys overland through Iran and Turkey, from where they travel by ship or plane to Libya with valid job visas. Once there, they continue their journey by sea. Recently Egyptian nationals have also been fleeing their country. They leave behind “political instability, the fundamentalism of the Taliban and the lack of job opportunities for young people,

amounting to 70% of the overall population – said Ejaz Ahmad, journalist, cultural mediator from Pakistan. They pay huge amounts of money to the traffickers, from 10 to 15 thousand euros. Many of them belong to the educated middle-class.” But since the Commissions in charge of releasing asylum permits considers Pakistan  “a safe Country” (same as Nigeria), “90% of asylum requests filed by Pakistani migrants are rejected”, he pointed out. “Those who fail to lodge successful appeals remain in Italy as illegal migrants, doing temporary illegal jobs.” According to ISTAT, as many as 101 thousand Pakistanis have settled down in Italy (data: January 1st 2016). Most of them work in agriculture, including breeding, or in the industrial sector. But according to Ahamd they amount to 130-150 thousand.

The complex asylum-request procedures could be improved. Schiavone (ASGI) highlighted the need for “transparency in the number of appeals lodged by asylum-seekers, supposedly high; increased efficiency in processing the applications; regular migration channels and measures aimed at the social inclusion of applicants remaining in Italy, including amnesty for illegal migrants.” “Former asylum-seekers with a good level of social and economic integration – he proposed –may obtain a residence permit for employment or job-seeking purposes.” If not, Schiavone cautioned, “non-implemented expulsions risk triggering precariousness, exploitation and illegality, with high economic and social costs for the State.” Father Camillo Ripamonti, Director of the “Astalli” refugee Centre, highlighted the need for the Commission to examine “personal cases, as enshrined in asylum rights under the law, without considering their Country of arrival as the sole criteria.” Reducing waiting times is “to be welcomed”, he said. However, “it should not be hastened excessively, for migrants all have traumas they are trying to cope with. This requires devoting enough time to authentic listening.” Father Ripamonti equally demanded “humanitarian corridors for those fleeing from war and persecution along with alternative legal procedures for those fleeing from situations of extreme poverty.”


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