Italy has been witnessing a rapid escalation towards racism and xenophobia since the new government came into power in June, 2018. On Nov 27, 2018, the lower house of the Italian Parliament approved the Decree-Law on Immigration and Security, which includes measures that would abolish humanitarian protection status for migrants, block asylum seekers from accessing reception centres focusing on social inclusion, and extend the duration of detention in return centres and hotspots. These measures fundamentally undermine international human rights principles. The day after approval, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior declared that Italy would not sign the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration or take part in an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on Dec 10, 2018.
The UN has condemned these alarming hatred measures and published an appeal to the Italian Government to reconsider the legislative changes and prevent violation of international human rights law. UN human rights experts are also “concerned about the continuing smear campaigns against civil society organisations engaged in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the criminalisation of the work of migrant rights defenders, which have become more widespread in Italy”.1
The experts continued: “Saving lives is not a crime. Protecting human dignity is not a crime. Acts of solidarity and humanity should not be prosecuted.”1
The Decree-Law on Immigration and Security has serious implications for the right to health, both regarding access to the national health-care system and the social conditions that contribute to the physical and mental health of immigrants. In a time of growing intolerance and racial discrimination worldwide, and of nationalistic attitudes towards integration, European physicians and health-care providers must join forces in counteracting these views. Authorities and practitioners must protect immigrant populations from undeserved human rights violations and promote the universal right to health—aspects fundamental to a dignified life. This action is not only an ethical and moral duty, but also a deontological obligation of medical doctors, who must defend these rights regardless of race, religious creed, gender, skin colour, socioeconomic status, or nationality.
I declare no competing interests.
Dr.ssa Raffaella Casolino, MD
Medical Oncology, PhD Student