The "migrant doctor": from Lampedusa to Brussels | The dilemma of migration | -

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In Italy, it is called the "migrant doctor". Pietro Bartolo has just been elected Member of the European Parliament on the list of the Italian Democratic Party (PD). During the ballot, he collected 274,000 votes, the 5th highest score in Italy all candidates combined. On Lampedusa, however, Pietro Bartolo got only a handful of votes.

If he spends four days a week in Brussels to prepare for the return to parliament on 2 July, he returns to Lampedusa every weekend. The island of just 22 km2 is closer to the Libyan and Tunisian coasts than the beaches of Sicily. When Pietro Bartolone returns, he returns to his routine as health care director of the island, a post that led him to be the first to provide care to migrants arriving on Lampedusa.

The German NGO Sea-Watch is in the sights of Matteo Salvini.

The German NGO Sea-Watch is in the sights of Matteo Salvini.

On June 15, he was at the port to meet the 10 migrants, including two pregnant women and three minors, allowed to get off the Sea-Watch 3 for medical reasons. The ship rescued more than 50 people off Libya on June 12 before heading for Lampedusa. But the Italian government has banned the boat from docking and the Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, a far-right party, has signed a new decree to sanction by fines the NGOs that provide relief. migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. This security decree came into effect on June 14th.

InfoMigrants: What's wrong with Sea-Watch?

Pietro Bartolo: At every rescue operation of an NGO, Matteo Salvini starts again with this farce. In fact, there are always small boats coming here, and he says nothing, just that the ports are closed. But the ports are open. On Saturday, he allowed ten people to disembark, but I hope he will let the others off as well. Sea Watch saved them and now he calls them criminals. Salvini says Sea-Watch puts migrants in danger. This is madness. They want to force Sea-Watch to bring those people back to Libya, the country they fled, which they managed to escape to the sea, knowing that they risk their lives.

Would the situation in Libya be so bad if the former Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti, of the Democratic Party (PD), had not concluded the controversial agreement with the Libyan militia and coastguards? (ndrl : agreement to support Libyan coastguards in exchange for measures to stop migrant crossings.) I immediately condemned what he did, which made me distance myself from the PD, even though I am now part of it via Demos, a smaller formation. Minniti has opened the way, and Salvini uses it. I think it was an odious act, with which I never agreed. We are responsible for a very serious mistake. In my opinion, entering into agreements with Libya means creating concentration camps.

Pietro Bartolo has spent 30 years caring for migrants arriving on Lampedusa

Pietro Bartolo has spent 30 years caring for migrants arriving on Lampedusa

What can Europe do with the new "security decree" of Italy?

This new decree is unconstitutional and violates all international standards. It must be removed. I hope that as soon as I start working in the European Parliament, I will be able to commit to these people arriving here by humanitarian corridors and regular routes and not by the sea. It is too dangerous. It is necessary for Europe to consider migration as a structural phenomenon and not as an emergency.

The League won 34% of the vote in the European elections. In Lampedusa, the party won 45% of the vote, although only a quarter of the voters went to the polls. How do you explain these scores?

It is a protest vote. In Lampedusa, people make an appeal to the state. The island has indeed been abandoned after having borne the migration burden for 30 years. But I must say that it saddened me. Because they are mine, I did so much for them, so much. In the end, someone from Lampedusa is sent to the European Parliament. I would have liked it to go beyond this form of protest and send a signal.

What has been the impact of the theme of migration on electoral choices?

The League created this enemy. They found an enemy to scare people. This created fertile ground for them to talk about safety and say, "We can protect you from this enemy. " They do all this to generate approval. Fear, ignorance and hate generate approval.

Migration is not the problem. We are talking about human beings for whom we need to pay special attention, as I have always done, but it is not a problem. Migration is a problem that Matteo Salvini and other politicians have created to justify everything else. The problem is that their goal is to dismantle Europe. But a weak Europe is a Europe destined to perish.

Italy has a migratory past. Has the story been forgotten?

We are a bizarre country, which manages to excel in all sectors: technology, arts, design, environment. Through these exchanges of cultures, traditions, DNA and hereditary baggage, everyone has brought something and everyone has converged to achieve what we today call the Italian people.

But we have forgotten these things. Just as we have forgotten that we have been migrants and have invaded the whole world: Argentina, the United States, Canada, Australia. Do you remember when people said that Switzerland was the Eldorado? This continues today. This year, 250,000 people have left. Our young people who leave us every year, we call them Ferraris. They do not leave because there are migrants who come to "take their jobs".

On Lampedusa, the far-right party League won 45% of the vote.

On Lampedusa, the far-right party League won 45% of the vote.

How to stop this misleading information about migrants in Europe?

Imagine that today, all the migrants who live and work in Italy decide to leave. Italy would die of it. Changing the Dublin Regulation is important because currently they (asylum seekers) are forced to stay here. By changing this regulation, they would have the opportunity to choose the place where they want to live.

It's not an invasion, it's not true. But Salvini made it a problem especially with all these lies that he spread to create fertile ground to be able to say "I am here, your savior".

Are you optimistic?

I think we can change things. It is not too late. I decided to go to Brussels because the problem of migration led me there. I want to make sure people stop seeing migration as a problem. Migration is a phenomenon that animals also experience. We all migrate to places where we are better off.

Interview : Irene Caselli

Translation: Marco Wolter

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