New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

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New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Asylum laws in Italy, fire ban in Australia, climate activism in Germany

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

In Italy, right-wing government passes laws deterring migrants

Amid a surge in seaborne arrivals, the Italian government has approved new laws limiting migration into the country. 

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced the laws after the island Lampedusa’s migrant center — which has an official capacity of 400 — was overwhelmed with around 6,800 migrants reaching the island in more than 120 small boats.

The new measures extend the time migrants can be held in government custody from three to 18 months and will allow ministers to open more detention centers in remote areas. According to Reuters, the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights said the current detention centers violate human rights, describing them as inefficient “black holes.”

Meloni also reaffirmed her support for a naval blockade as a potential solution to stop migrant ships from crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In June, Meloni visited Tunis, Tunisia, when Ursula von der Leyen — president of the European Commission — agreed to aid Tunisia in preventing departures from the North African nation. However, the EU’s migration deal with Tunisia, which would combat the smuggling of migrants to Europe, has yet to come to fruition.

ABC News reported that French far-right politician Marion Maréchal visited Lampedusa, located just off the coast of Africa, in solidarity with Meloni. During her visit, she said the current Italian border crisis had major implications for Europe.

“I came to support the Italian people and government, because Lampedusa today and the Italian borders are the borders of the whole of Europe,” Maréchal told ABC News. “We have to change EU policy to help the Italian government, which today is alone in facing this crisis.”

In Australia, state government enforces law banning fire in Sydney

In preparation for the upcoming Southern Hemisphere summer — forecasted to be the most destructive wildfire season since 2020 — the state of New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service has enforced a “total fire ban” in the entire region of Sydney. 

In addition to the fire ban — which prohibits the usage of fire outdoors — 21 schools across the Australian state were temporarily closed on Sept. 19, with the day setting the record for Sydney’s hottest day in September

This September’s record-breaking heat follows an especially hot winter for Australia. The 2023 winter season in the country, consisting of June, July and August, was the warmest since official records began tracking temperatures in 1910.

The NSW RFS announced that 73 fires are burning across the state, with 30 not yet contained. The post also said over 1,000 firefighters and incident management personnel are on duty throughout the state.

Last Sunday, warm conditions affected runners at the annual Sydney marathon — 40 participants were treated for heat exhaustion by emergency services, and 26 were taken to the hospital. 

Despite a recent return to historical temperatures, the 2023 and 2024 summer seasons are expected to follow the hotter spring and winter seasons of 2023. Reuters reported that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology declared an El Niño event expected to coincide with the hotter weather. 

“We’re absolutely not prepared,” David Bowman, a University of Tasmania professor and one of Australia’s leading fire management experts, said to The New York Times. “We’re not doing the necessary work at the speed we need to do the work, relative to the rate of climate change.”

In Germany, climate activists vandalize the Brandenburg Gate

Members of the Last Generation, a student-led climate advocacy group primarily based in Germany, Austria and Italy, sprayed the columns on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate with orange and yellow paint last Sunday. All 14 protesters were arrested on site, and investigations have begun into criminal damage to property, the Berlin police announced on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Currently, German goals to cut greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030 are likely to be missed, according to reports by government climate advisers and the Federal Environment Ministry. The Last Generation wants Germany to accelerate its transition off fossil fuels, calling for the nation to stop using them by 2030 through three demands: a general speed limit of 62 miles per hour on highways, affordable public transport and creating a citizens’ council.

This is not the first time the group has been in the public eye — in 2022, members of the Last Generation threw soup at a Vincent Van Gogh painting in Rome and mashed potatoes onto a Claude Monet painting in Potsdam. Both paintings were protected by glass and were undamaged.

In 2023, members of the group delayed a Formula ePrix and vandalized a private aircraft in Berlin, and smeared mud over themselves outside the Senate building in Rome, among other acts of protest. These actions have led the German authorities to monitor the Last Generation’s phones and emails.

In response to the group’s spray painting of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner said its vandalism had gone too far, taking away the legitimacy of other forms of protest.

“With these actions, this group is not only damaging the historic Brandenburg Gate, but also our free discourse about the important issues of our time and future,” Wegner said to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, according to the Associated Press.

Contact Krish Dev at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Krish Dev
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.

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