UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has claimed that governments enacting strong border controls to prevent illegal immigrants from entering their countries are doing so due to racism.
Grandi spoke at an event in Italy, stating that he was shocked at the difference in European countries’ attitudes toward those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and migrants coming to Europe from different parts of the world.
“I am not shocked by the statement that Ukrainians are refugees that are easier to host, due to geographical and cultural proximity,” he said, adding: “I am shocked by those who say that Ukrainians are real refugees and others are not,” the European Union-funded website InfoMigrants reports.
According to Grandi, countries that want to be tougher on illegal immigration are motivated by racism, saying that “for the others, the response is restrictive legislation, barbed wire, naval blockades and pushbacks. This is racism. We have the legal and moral duty to welcome [migrants].”
“The lesson of Ukraine is useful to understand how to respond to the movement of those who have nothing. In only a few weeks some seven million Ukrainians arrived in Europe, not just a few boats,” he said.
Italy, where Grandi was speaking, has seen a surge of illegal immigrants arriving by sea this year, with last month and July both seeing more arrivals than the entire year of 2019.
The vast majority of those who apply for asylum in Italy are also rejected as not having legitimate claims, with just 15 per cent being accepted for refugee status last year.
If the current pace of illegal immigration to Italy continues, the country could see as many as 100,000 illegal immigrants arrive by the end of the year — the highest number since 2017.
Italy will see a national election on September 25th, and polls show the right-wing coalition of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia are likely to win a majority of seats in the Italian parliament.
The coalition is strongly against illegal immigration, with Meloni floating the idea of a naval blockade to prevent illegal arrivals.