Francesca Ronchin: Hypocresea - The hidden truths behind the clichés about immigration and NGOs

Francesca Ronchin

Ed. Aliberti, Reggio Emilia 2022

pp. 298

“What happens at sea when rescues take place is much more than what is shown to us. They show us the migrants, the agitated images of the rescues, the tears, the sweat, the struggle between life and death. All documented by NGO staff and dozens of journalists who boarded these ships, with photos and videos. But that's only part of the story..." Thus, the author, a journalist, begins this investigative book of hers where she recounts what she saw with her own eyes, such as when she embarked on the Aquarius, belonging to the NGO SOS Mediterranean, where he saw things the official images never showed. In fact, during a rescue operation, some characters appeared, defined as fishermen, but they were not.

“As soon as the rescuers transfer the migrants from the dinghies to the ship, the 'fishermen' pounce on the dinghies like jackals in search of engines, precious petrol cans and life jackets. It is evident that they are not there to tinker with nets and fishing rods and that instead they are pieces of the human trafficking machine. None of the countless journalists who boarded the relief ships ever immortalized them.” This because "aid workers, and with them a dominant slice of the world of information, tend to show only those aspects of the migratory phenomenon that are functional to a given narrative."

A book against the tide therefore, as you can already guess from the title, where Ronchin exposes uncomfortable points of view on the world that revolves around NGO ships and migrants, a term, the latter which "in its underlining of a non-existent desire for nomadism, it falsifies the real motivations of those who leave their country."

Until a few years ago, terms such as immigrant, non-EU citizen, clandestine were in common use, “Today they sound outdated and even offensive. In their place the most modern and ecumenical migrant has made his way.”

The ships of the NGOs, according to the vulgate, “they are described as a necessary presence devoid of shadows and negative effects,” immigrants, on the other hand, like “the solution to Italy's economic and demographic problems. A narrative useful to convince us that immigration is good and right. A beautiful fairy tale” therefore, which however does not convince the author who, in fact, asks herself: “How is it possible that authoritative economists continue to maintain that migrants will pay our pensions, when there are thousands of regular migrants who live by their wits, black jobs, daily life within the peeling walls of some occupied building and makeshift accommodations? If this is the condition of those in possession of regular documents to live in Italy, let alone the others.” Not to mention that, as Federico Rampini claims in the preface, “when the workforce is abundant because it is increased every year by new arrivals of foreigners, the bosses have the upper hand and pay low wages. If, on the other hand, the workforce is scarce, the worker has more bargaining power and gets better pay. In other words: immigration is a godsend for the employers, a detriment for the working classes.”

As far as NGO ships are concerned, however, the author always reflects, “Do we really think that a dinghy would leave in prohibitive weather conditions and waves six meters high, if there weren't someone at sea able to rescue it? The smugglers are criminals yes but they are also businessmen, they have to make ends meet and have no interest in sending migrants towards a guaranteed suicide. There is therefore a strong suspicion that the NGO vessels are acting as pull factor, that is, that their presence at sea can facilitate the departure of migrants, so much so that someone has defined them as sea taxis, triggering the indignant reactions of some newspapers, “reactions, it would seem, equal to those that a sacrilegious act could unleash.”

The thesis that "the greater the number of emergency vehicles and their proximity to the Libyan coast, the greater the number of departures and therefore of the dead"has its own logic. On the other hand, it does not have its own logic to support that “basically, the migrant who arrived on the boat has turned into a hero and he will be the one to save us,” thesis of those who claim that immigrants pay our pensions and do jobs that Italians no longer want to do and, also claiming that Italians overestimate the share of the population of immigrants (i.e. they have a wrong perception of the phenomenon, thus questioning the credibility of theses contrary to theirs), absolutely do not take into account the theses of those who, on the other hand, claim that immigrants, in addition to being a burden on the welfareworsen the crime situation.

What must be clear, however, argues the author, is "that to be a taxpayer it is not enough to land in Lampedusa, but you need to have a job and, which is not a given, also be in good standing." Immigration, only if well managed, will be able to contribute "a great contribution to the economy of a country and also to its cultural wealth" as it will allow the immigrant to integrate and to constitute a precious resource. If, on the other hand, you try to convince Italians that immigration is always necessarily a good thing, continue “telling fairy tales, so why and for whom are we doing it?”

Gianlorenzo Capano