For a long time, I was proud of my country. I work as a doctor on the small island of Lampedusa in the middle of the Mediterranean, a place that is something of a symbolic gateway between Africa and Europe. In recent decades, Italy showed how it could honour humanity, giving the word “welcome” a new meaning, without ever building walls or putting up barbed wire along its borders. These acts of openness were recognised by other countries, by the EU, and by the gratitude of the thousands of people whose lives we saved over the years.
But I stopped feeling proud to be Italian from the moment our government, denying all that had previously been done, decided to establish an agreement with Libyan groups in Tripoli – which meant, directly or indirectly, with people smugglers. I still remember how in 2016 my country had vigorously joined the outrage triggered by Europe’s decision to bankroll Turkey’s President Erdoğan with €6bn so he’d ignore or stop the migration flows from Syria. Italy’s position was then sacrosanct. It has since been somehow inexplicably disavowed in deeds.