Italy is the EU country where the difference between the number of immigrants that people believe there are and those who actually are in the country is highest. The years of media bombardment repeating the message that an invasion is in progress have created a feeling of disassociation and rejection of refugees and the people who save their lives out at sea.
“We will stop the invasion” is the historical motto of La Lega, but the Five Stars Movement (M5E) has also joined in. It was M5E’s Luigi di Maio, now deputy prime minister along with lawyer Matteo Salvini, who initiated the crusade against the NGOs they call “taxi drivers at sea” in the service of traffickers.
In this context, one of the few NGOs that has not given up, the Catalan Proactiva Open Arms, and its founder, Òscar Camps, have become a symbol. For some, Camps personifies the dignity and humanity that the government has abandoned but for those in favour of the M5E-Lega government, it has become a target of attacks and defamation on the Internet.
Last month, following the death of 400 people in the Mediterranean and the refusal of Italy to allow survivors entry, Camps uploaded a protest video showing activists and MEPs simulating a shipwreck. M5E and the Lega used the video as “proof” that the rescue was a lie. In response Camps uploaded photographs of three real victims, children, which the defamers captioned “Camps uses plastic dolls” to lie.
It now seems that the defamation has in some ways backfired, angering many and bringing more, in both Italy and the EU, into the fight to defend humanity.