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How is the European refugee crisis affecting Italy?

April 7, 2016

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How is the refugee crisis affecting Italy? Is it impacting tourism? And most importantly, should I be worried about it when I arrive there? These are key questions when planning your holidays to Italy.

The surge of refugees over the past year has marked many corners of the world. Although some believe that the refugee crisis has significantly affected tourism and immigration rates in Italy, this appears to be far from true. Many people have fled from their countries into Italy- but not enough to make a large impact. Let’s look at the facts:

How are Italy and the EU handling the refugee crisis? Hundreds of thousands of people have left Libya, Syria and other countries to flee persecution, and many have lost their lives. Italy has developed many programs to help these refugees. Border patrols first filter through the asylum-seekers, those with medical problems and economic migrants to ensure that they do not present security concerns. The biggest issue has been the sheer number of people that must be filtered. Slowly, these numbers are dwindling and the atmosphere is becoming safer. Although there have been reports of unsafe boats trying to reach Italy, the government continues to thwart these efforts with fairly good success. Additionally, human trafficking has increased along with the number of refugees, but the EU is working to reduce those numbers also. Overall, it is a protected environment, and as long as you are not visiting Greece or some of the neighboring African countries, you will see little effect on the population or culture. Naturally, rural areas will see fewer effects than will their urban counterparts.

Is the refugee crisis affecting tourism in Italy? The region of Italy most affected by this crisis is Sicily; because of its separation from the mainland, many refugees have tried to arrive by boat. For the most part, Italy and the EU have responded adequately to this threat. Refugees that elude border patrol are transported to special centers throughout Italy to await the government’s decision about their status. As a result, this has had little effect on the tourism in Italy, including Sicily. However, due to its location, I would stay away from Pantelleria (the secluded Italian island between Sicily and Africa) until things have cooled off a bit.

Advice for visiting Europe: Stay updated on news regarding your destination city, country and the rest of Europe. The State Department is a great source for this info, issuing both “travel alerts” and the more troubling “travel warnings” depending on the extent of the threat. Additionally, make sure to stay informed on all your methods of transportation, because Italy’s “normal” propensity for strikes and delays has been increased somewhat due to refugee-related issues around Europe. The European Tourism Association states that it’s prepared for another large wave of refugees, having organized seven huge sites that can accommodate large numbers. Extra ferries have been added all over Europe to ensure that travelers can move about safely. Make sure to always stay alert, and in case of an emergency, stay tuned to news and refugee alerts. There have been very few problems since the start of the year, and it is expected to stay that way, thanks to hard work and preparation from the EU member nations.

Photo credit: MP Myers Photography

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