15.5 C
New York
Friday, September 29, 2023
HomeWorldItaly's Meloni campaigned to stop immigration. It does not work.

Italy’s Meloni campaigned to stop immigration. It does not work.

Italy’s Meloni campaigned to stop immigration.  It does not work.

ROME – They arrived in quick succession, a flotilla of rickety boats carrying desperate migrants from the Tunisian coast across the Mediterranean Sea. Within three days, their numbers (nearly 7,000 on Wednesday night) had surpassed the entire population of their destination, the small Italian island of Lampedusa.

Their huge numbers have alarmed Italy and put the country’s first far-right leader since World War II in the crosshairs. During last year’s election campaign, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised to stop irregular migration even if a European Union-led “naval blockade” was necessary.

But as arrivals to Italy have risen to 123,800 so far this year (roughly double last year’s numbers and on track to equal or surpass the 2016 record), Meloni has come under fire from both the right as well as by the political left for not fulfilling its cornerstone. promise.

- Advertisement -

Migration to Italy is increasing. And it’s still low season.

The surge on the southern island of Lampedusa, which declared a state of emergency on Wednesday night, came despite a new deal she helped reach with the Tunisian government aimed at blocking migrant travel. At the same time, she faces new measures from Germany and France to prevent migrants from leaving Italy.

“The Meloni government has failed in all areas” on migration, declared Pietro Bartolo, a member of the European Parliament for the opposition Democratic Party, on his Facebook page. “The numerous metal ships that have landed in Lampedusa in recent days all departed from Tunisia, the country with which the Italian government… signed a memorandum.”

Pressure is building within Meloni’s coalition to take more aggressive action, but observers say he has few good options. Despite his campaign promises, Meloni’s Italy has refrained from deploying the more aggressive tactics seen by other frontline countries such as Greece, where the coast guard has faced harsh criticism, including for its handling of a migrant boat in difficulties that sank in June, causing hundreds of deaths.

- Advertisement -

“The point is, what does aggressive action mean? What can she do? It’s one thing to call for a naval blockade when you’re in the opposition. But you can’t really do any of that,” said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based Institute for International Affairs. “The only thing Italy can do is hope to convince other European countries to share more of the burden.”

Footage broadcast on national television on Wednesday showed Italian police struggling to contain crowds of desperate migrants in Lampedusa with plastic shields. In the rush of a rescue operation, a five-month-old baby drowned after her boat capsized, highlighting the growing humanitarian challenge.

Lampedusa was also on the front lines of Europe’s last major migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, when its warm reception of migrants earned it global recognition and a campaign to award the island the Nobel Peace Prize. But changes in migratory routes have seen arrivals on Lampedusa this year far exceed their record from 2016. Authorities there now say the 7.8-square-mile island of 6,000 people has been completely overwhelmed.

On Thursday, Italian coast guard ships struggled to relocate thousands of migrants from Lampedusa’s only refugee center built for 400 people to larger ones in Sicily.

- Advertisement -

“It is the defeat of Europe, of a system that… never implements real and true migration policies,” Lampedusa Mayor Filippo Mannino told the Italian press on Wednesday. “Here we are all tired and exhausted, both physically and psychologically. “The situation is becoming unmanageable and unsustainable.”

The rise in numbers, immigration officials said, reflects several factors. On the one hand, bad weather (partly related to Storm Daniel in the Mediterranean that caused thousands of deaths in Libya) appears to have slowed migratory flows for days, causing a rapid increase once the skies cleared.

But Flavio di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Rome, said the predominant factor appeared to be the growing number of migrants arriving from Tunisia, which has overtaken Libya as the largest departure point for maritime migration to Europe. .

The racist roots of increased migration to Europe this year

Earlier this year, sub-Saharan migrants who had been in Tunisia for years began fleeing in large numbers to escape a wave of racist attacks. More recently, di Giacomo said, more Tunisian citizens were joining their ranks, as well as migrants – mostly Eritreans, Sudanese and Egyptians – who appeared to be crossing the Libyan border to travel to Lampedusa from the nearby Tunisian city of Sfax.

“This is quite new, before there was not such a large number of people coming from Libya to Tunisia to come to Italy,” he said.

Yet despite pledges of solidarity from other European nations, Italy has borne the brunt of the new arrivals, Meloni and others here have argued.

This week, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that his country would reinforce its border with Italy to contain an increase in migratory flows, promoting mobile units and security personnel.

Germany said on Wednesday it would suspend an agreement reached last year to receive migrants from Italy. Berlin blamed the increase in migrant arrivals in Germany, along with the Italian government’s refusal to respect a European agreement – known as the Dublin treaty – in which migrants can be deported to their country of first arrival within the bloc – which these days tends to be Italy.

Meloni admitted on Wednesday that Italy was not accepting returnees, arguing that his country was too overwhelmed.

“The crux of the matter, as far as I am concerned, is not how we move them from one part [of Europe to another],” she said. “The only way to fix it for everyone is to stop [the migrants], stopping primary flows and, therefore, arrivals to Italy. And I’m working on that.”

Immigrant advocates say Europe is better prepared than it admits to handle the influx of migrants, citing the more than five million Ukrainians quickly absorbed after the Russian invasion. Although Italy is approaching a record in arrivals, EU-wide totals remain well below the peak of 2015, when nearly a million migrants – mostly Syrians fleeing civil war – fled to Europe for safety. .

But as numbers here soar again, Meloni faces the prospect that the core of his migration policy – ​​an agreement with Tunisia’s authoritarian president, Kais Saied, to increase patrols and crack down on migrant departures in exchange for millions in investments and aid from Europe – has failed. to deliver.

Members of his far-right coalition partner, the League party, also appeared to suggest their efforts are not succeeding. In an interview published on Thursday by the media outlet affaritaliani.it, the League’s undersecretary, Andrea Crippa, was asked if Meloni’s strategy in Tunisia had worked to prevent immigration flows.

“It seems that it wasn’t like that,” he said.

Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular