When the G7 heads of state arrive in Taormina, Sicily, for the G7 meeting on May 26, they will find themselves in an embellished, picture-postcard version of European reality. Italy, the host of the G7 meeting, has announced that it will close all harbors on the island to ships that arrive with migrants ( mainly from Libya) for the duration of the two-day meeting. The reason for the closure of the Italian island to migrants is to protect the G7 meeting from potential terrorist attacks. According to Italian reports, "the Department of Public Safety believes that the boats with illegal immigrants could be hiding an Islamist threat".
G7 meetings are, of course, always subject to a host of high-level security measures. However, shielding heads of state from seeing the consequences of the policies that they themselves have forced on the entire European continent represents a staggering new level of hypocrisy. Literally altering reality in order to present a whitewashed picture of the influx of migrants into Europe, which happens largely through Italy, is a Potemkin measure, regardless of terror risks. Heads of state, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Italy seeks to protect from a terrorist risk, seem not to care particularly about the very real terrorist risks that European citizens are forced to live with daily thanks to the migrant policies of these heads of state.
In 2015, when asked how Europe could be protected against Islamization, Merkel, who does not move without her own personal security team consisting of 15-20 armed bodyguards, carelessly said: "Fear is not a good adviser. It is better that we should have the courage once again to deal more strongly with our own Christian roots." In December 2016, she told members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who were asking how to reassure the public about the problem of integrating migrants, "This could also broaden your horizons."
Why do the citizens of Europe need to 'broaden their horizons,' while the people in power, who forced them to do that, protect themselves from the reality they themselves imposed on everyone else? This attitude, far from democratic, borders on the atmosphere prevalent in Europe during the bygone days of Europe's absolute monarchs.
Being confronted with the results of their policies by seeing the migrants as they arrive in Sicily could be helpful in bringing these heads of state back to reality in Europe.
Migrants, who crossed from Libya, disembark the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) 'Phoenix' vessel on May 20, 2017 in Trapani (Sicily), Italy. (Image source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
According to the UNHCR, there were 362,753 Mediterranean migrant arrivals in Europe in 2016 - compared to more than a million people who arrived in Europe in the record year 2015, when Merkel invited asylum seekers to come to Germany.
Out of these migrants, the majority, 181,436, crossed the Mediterranean into Italy in 2016 and another 173,450 crossed the Mediterranean into Greece. According to the UNHCR, 55,374 migrants have already arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean, between January 1, 2017 and May 19, 2017. The majority (almost 46,000) have arrived in Italy, but some also arrived in Spain (3,200) and Greece (6,100). The most common nationalities of these migrants are Nigeria (17%), Bangladesh (10.7%), Guinea (9.7%), Cote d'Ivoire (9.1%), Gambia (6.6%), Syria (6.1%), Senegal (5.9%), Morocco (5.6%) and a total of 10% from "unspecified" countries. Most of these arrivals, evidently, are not refugees, but economic migrants.
Nevertheless, as Soeren Kern writes, Europe is unrelenting in pursuing its old, dysfunctional policies. On May 2, 2017, Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, urged the EU:
"take the last concrete steps to gradually return, as we have repeatedly said many times before, to a normal functioning of the Schengen Area. This is our goal, and it remains unchanged. A fully functioning area, free from internal border controls".
What he seems to be saying, in other words, is that the EU would like to see a return to the complete border chaos that reigned in Europe in 2015, until several EU nations reinstated pre-Schengen border controls. Avramopoulos "notably recommended" that Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway phase out "the temporary controls in place at some of their internal Schengen borders over the following six months". These are the countries that experienced the most chaos from migrants eager to reach those wealthy countries' borders, after Angela Merkel invited asylum seekers in.
It seems inconceivable to European politicians, evidently, that the answer to the large wave of migrants seeking a better economic future for themselves on the European continent (eight to ten million migrants could be on the way), might be countered by something other than open arms and a continuation of the old welfare policies.
While it is true, as said by German Development Minister Gerd Müller, that "In our digital age with the internet and mobile phones, everyone knows about our prosperity and lifestyle," the answer to that problem is not fatalistically to sit back and wait for the migrant influx. The answer is, based on a new starting-date, to change Europe's outdated and unsustainable welfare policies, which stem from a pre-globalization era, and in this way actively work to make it less attractive for millions of migrants to venture to the European continent in the first place.
In addition, European leaders appear not to care that their continuing migration policies and welfare systems support an entire industry of human traffickers, who prey on the desire of hopeful migrants to reach Europe; the traffickers are making billions.
According to the [Europol] report, migrant smuggling in 2015 earned crime bosses up to £4.9billion (€5.7billion), with profits dropping to around £1.7billion (€2billion) last year as the number of people entering the EU illegally fell to around 510,000.
Europol said: "Migrant smuggling has emerged as one of the most profitable and widespread criminal activities for organised crime in the EU.
"The migrant smuggling business is now a large, profitable and sophisticated criminal market, comparable to the European drug markets."
European politicians are indirectly responsible for the existence of this industry.
Italy may think that it is protecting G7 leaders such as Angela Merkel from potential terrorist attacks during the G7 meeting in Taormina by closing Sicilian harbors to migrants. But by shielding from reality politicians who are already solidly detached from it, they are exposing the European citizenry -- whom those politicians are supposed to protect -- to even greater risks.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.