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IMMIGRATION

Postcards for Salvini: activists to deliver thousands of pro-migrant cards to Italy’s Interior Minister

A campaign started by four young Italians to inundate Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini with postcards denouncing migrant deaths in the Mediterranean has collected thousands of cards following all-day signings in Rome and Milan Sunday.

Postcards for Salvini: activists to deliver thousands of pro-migrant cards to Italy’s Interior Minister
A girl puts a postcard for Salvini in a "postbox" outside the Pantheon on September 30, 2018. Photo: Elaine Allaby

Campaign co-founder Michela Locati said they had the idea for the project after Salvini put out a message in late June vowing that NGO migrant rescue ships would “see Italy only in a postcard”, having announced a policy to block the ships from docking on the country’s shores.


Photo: Elaine Allaby

Locati and her friends Nicole Romanelli, Pietro Gregorini, and Verdiana Festa, who all work in the country's creative industries, put together the campaign within three days and subsequently received more than 300 different designs for political commentary “postcards” from graphic designers and NGOs across the country, after their call to action was publicised by La Repubblica, Ansa, Vanity Fair, and Huffington Post Italia.

“Lampedusa, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean” Design: Alberto Casagrande and Ilaria Cairoli

More than 12,000 people then voted on an online poll for their 10 favourite designs, and 1,000 of each – 10,000 in total – were printed on recycled card for members of the public to sign, along with their own messages for Salvini.


Photo: Elaine Allaby

The friends travelled across Italy to publicise the campaign, stopping by Bari in the south and Turin and Como in the north, before holding day-long signings in the centres of Italy’s two metropolises of Rome and Milan.

The signings were held from 10am until 6pm Sunday outside the Pantheon in Rome and at Piazza Duomo in Milan, timed to coincide with the latter city’s “Zero Tolerance” demonstration against racism organized by the Sentinels of Milan.

READ ALSO: Salvini vows to end all migrant arrivals to Italy by boat


Photo: Elaine Allaby

Supporters who were unable to attend the signings in person sent messages via email and social media for the team to write on the cards.

The group will deliver the postcards to Salvini’s office at the Ministry of the Interior on Wednesday.


Photo: Elaine Allaby

Speaking at the group’s stall outside the Patheon in Rome, local artist Bruna Esposito said she came to sign a postcard after she saw the event advertised in a local online news outlet.

“It looks like a minor initiative but I think this is a very good way for younger people to channel a pacifist message against the increasing brutality and violence, which starts verbal but then becomes physical, against not only immigrants but then the Roma, homosexuals, and the Jewish,” she told The Local.

“It doesn’t look like it – you think ah, the Pantheon, there are tourists, it’s sunny, there’s ice cream, but it’s not only that. It’s happening again”.

READ ALSO: Italy demands new regulations for migrants at tense EU summit


Photo: Elaine Allaby

Francesca Ciardiello, who works in Italy’s energy sector and volunteers with the organisation Refugees Welcome, said she came to sign a card because she felt the current government’s rhetoric around migrants “isn’t just inhumane, but creates social conflict that prevents us from growing as a society”.


Photo: Elaine Allaby

The response wasn’t universally positive, however.

“People die all the time!” shouted one woman eating at a restaurant patio on the street when some members of the team went to drum up support with a megaphone.


Photo: Elaine Allaby

Gregorini, an art director who created the campaign’s website and logo, said he was excited to put out a call to the country’s artists and graphic designers because “most of the time creative people don’t take a position on political arguments, but we felt it was time to not stay silent anymore.”

“It’s a subtle message to say, hey, there are at least 10,000 of us saying what you’re doing is not right, just think about that,” he told The Local.

“Italians were mostly emigrants in the last century, sometimes people don’t recall that,” he added.

“We also needed to go abroad and find our fortunes.”


Photo: Elaine Allaby

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POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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