Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni admitted that she hoped to be able to “better control” irregular immigration, which has increased significantly since the historic election victory of her far-right party a year ago.
“Of course, we expected something better in terms of immigration when we worked so hard,” she told Italian broadcaster TG1, adding: “The results do not meet our expectations. It is certainly a very complex problem, but I am sure that we will get to the bottom of it.
Meloni’s so-called Brothers of Italy post-fascist party was elected largely on the promise of reducing mass immigration to Italy.
However, the number of boat arrivals from North Africa has increased, with more than 130,000 migrants registered by the Interior Ministry so far this year, compared to 70,000 in the same period in 2022.
Earlier this month, about 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days.
After that, Meloni called on the European Union to do more to reduce the pressure.
Brussels agreed to step up its efforts and announced earlier this week that it would release funds to Tunisia – where many boats depart from – as part of a pact to curb irregular migration from the country.
Meloni’s main coalition partner, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigration League, rejected the EU’s efforts to cope with the influx of new arrivals, calling it an “act of war”.”
The league also this weekend condemned the German government for funding an NGO that carries out sea rescue in the Mediterranean, saying that this constituted too serious interference in Italian affairs.
Salvini, who closed Italian ports to migrant rescue ships during his term in office in 2019, advocates a tougher approach.
Since coming to power, Meloni’s government has restricted the activities of rescue ships, which it accuses of encouraging migrants, and pledged to crack down on smugglers.
Salvini has also tried to promote the repatriation of migrants who are not entitled to asylum, in particular by building new detention centers and extending the period of detention in them.
They also published a decree this week stating that migrants waiting for an asylum decision will have to post a deposit of 5, 000 euros – or risk being sent to a detention center.
None of these measures were popular with Italy’s center-left Democratic Party.
In a memo earlier this week, they said: on immigration, the Italian right has failed… it continues on a demagogic and deliberately cynical path, but, most importantly, completely ineffective both in respect and respect for human rights, and in protecting the interests of Italy.