Ismail Einashe, journalist
In our series of letters from African journalists, Ismail Einashe meets migrants from the Italian island of Sicily, worried about the political orientation of the new government.
Giorgia Meloni made history by becoming the first woman president of the Council of Italy. You will lead what will be the most right-wing government in the country since World War II.
His far-right party, Brothers of Italy, is part of a coalition that has made the immigration cut a key part of its platform.
For African migrants like Mustapha Jarjou in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, this heralds frightening times: “I am very worried, this will create a very negative impact on the lives of migrants like me”.
The 24-year-old, spokesperson for the Gambian community association in Palermo, believes that this policy could fuel divisions and hatred of migrants.
He cites as an example the killing in broad daylight of a disabled Nigerian street vendor, Alika Ogorchukwu, on the mainland in August.
Italy is one of the main entry points into Europe and since the beginning of the year 70 thousand migrants have arrived on the coasts of the country.
Ms. Meloni wants to strengthen the reception system for asylum seekers to stifle this irregular migration which, according to her, threatens the security and quality of life of citizens.
He also wants to increase repatriations, target charity ships rescuing migrants in distress while crossing the Mediterranean, and has called for a naval blockade of North Africa.
Mr. Jarjou’s trip to Italy – like that of many others – was incredibly dangerous.
He arrived here at the age of 17, in December 2016, after leaving his home in West Africa in search of a better life.
It is a miracle that he succeeded: after leaving Gambia and arriving in Libya, his nightmare began when he was locked up there three times, managing to escape each time.
He survived a terrifying sea crossing in a rubber dinghy before landing in Sicily, where he ended up working as a farm laborer on very low pay in terrible conditions, growing watermelons and tomatoes on the island aft.
But his fate changed when he received the official documents, which he had applied for as an asylum seeker. This allowed him to move to Palermo to continue his studies.
She is currently in her second year of nursing undergraduate and hopes to work in a city hospital when she graduates.
If Ms. Meloni keeps her promises, it will be more difficult for migrants to formalize their status.
“Documents are an important gateway to integration,” says Jarjou, adding that without them many migrants will simply become “invisible” and be forced to lead a dull existence on the fringes of Italian society.
He is particularly concerned about threats to make sea crossings more difficult for migrants by criminalizing charitable rescue boats. According to him, this would simply lead to more deaths in the Mediterranean.
“The largest cemetery in the world”
But migrants have a powerful ally in the person of Pope Francis who, in a speech last weekend in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, defended them with passion.
Although the pontiff did not mention Italy, his speech can be seen as a rebuke of the new coalition’s policies.
He said the exclusion of migrants was “outrageous, disgusting and sinful”, calling the Mediterranean “the largest cemetery in the world” in reference to the thousands of migrants who have died in its waters in recent years.
“It is criminal not to open doors to those in need,” he said.
Despite Mr Jarjou’s fears, the city of Palermo has long had a reputation for being welcoming to migrants.
Located on the borders of Europe, the city became a cultural melting pot in ancient times and one of its patron saints is San Benedetto il Moro, the first black saint in history.
Fausto Melluso, director of Arci Palermo, an association of 16 community groups in the city and representing 7,000 members, points out that most people in Sicily and southern Italy did not vote for Meloni or did not vote at all. Many have supported the populist 5 Star Movement, led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Mr. Melluso, who until recently was an independent left-wing politician in the municipality of Palermo, also admits that he is concerned about the anti-migrant positions that Meloni could take.
He believes his victory should be a “wake-up call” to challenge such attitudes and focus on integrating migrants into Italian society.
A 23-year-old Guinean migrant I met in the city can’t wait to leave before life gets even more difficult.
Living in Palermo since the age of 17, she has struggled to obtain her documents and believes that the Italian asylum system already makes integration of migrants difficult, often leaving them in limbo.
He is fluent in Italian, volunteers for community groups, studies and even works as a waiter, but still faces a tough battle.
He has to renew his documents every two years, which takes a long time and is a difficult process for migrants.
He is destined to quit his job and move to France, where he has a family and wants to go to university, although he doesn’t know what he will do when his Italian papers expire next year.
“After six years here, nothing has changed for me. I feel like I arrived yesterday.”