How will Italy’s new government approach immigration?

Will Italy's new left-leaning, pro-European government steer away from the hardline anti-immigration policies introduced by Italy's previous government?

How will Italy's new government approach immigration?
Italy's new interior minister Luciana Lamorgese is a specialist in migration policy. Photo: Filippo MonteforteAFP

The new administration, sworn in today, has a delicate balancing act ahead: it hopes to soften the hardline anti-immigration policies introduced by previous interior minister Matteo Salvini, but will be wary of scrapping a policy which won him large support.

The head of the far-right, nationalist League, Salvini used his role in the previous government to promote his party's aggressive stance against the EU and wage war on charity vessels saving migrants in the Mediterranean.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday made a first attempt to repair frayed relations with Brussels by saying Rome was keen to “resume negotiations with the EU… to finally arrive at a European management of the immigration problem”.

READ ALSO: Here is Italy's new cabinet in full

He also called for a rethink of the “Dublin regulation”, which assigns responsibility for migrants to the nation of first entry.

Italy is on the front-line for many of those fleeing war and poverty in Africa who set out to sea from Libya.

Rescue ship crew approach migrants on an overloaded dinghy in the Mediterranean in May 2019. Photo: AFP/SEA-EYE.ORG

Finland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, said Wednesday that the upcoming Malta summit on immigration would “resume the work done in Paris, in the hope of moving in the right direction”.

At a working meeting in the French capital in July, some 14 European countries agreed to implement a “solidarity mechanism” to allocate migrants rescued in the Mediterranean across the bloc.

Salvini hardened his anti-immigration policies during his 14 months as interior minister, ranting against migrants on social media platforms and creating laws which forced refugees out of camps and onto the streets, aimed to close the country's ports to rescue vessels, and made it harder to obtain Italian citizenship.

ANALYSIS: How Matteo Salvini lost his gamble to become Italy's PM – for now

The coalition of far-right League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) began forbidding ships carrying migrants from entering the country's territorial waters, leaving them stranded for days or even weeks at sea.

The new laws also made it possible to impound charity vessels and slap their captains with fines of up to one million euros.

While Italy's President Sergio Mattarella signed off on Salvini's decrees, he publicly criticised several elements.

He said the duty to save lives in danger at sea took precedence and the fine was too draconian.

'Politically dangerous'

The new government, a tie-up between the M5S and centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is expected to adopt a more pragmatic approach, particularly as new interior minister Luciana Lamorgese is not affiliated with any political party.

In stark contrast to the previous interior minister, Lamorgese is an experienced migration policy expert who apparently has no social media accounts.

“What is certain is that there will be less media attention on the immigration problem,” Lorenzo Castellani, political science professor at the Luiss University in Rome, told AFP.

“The new government will seek a deeper dialogue with the EU on the Dublin regulation, and will lower the tone on rescue charities,” he said.

But he warned that while Salvini has suffered a slight dip in popularity since pulling the plug on the M5S-League government, an attempt to capitalise on that by relaxing Italy's law on migrants entirely would be “politically dangerous”

READ ALSO: Four key economic challenges facing Italy's new government

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.