Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is under pressure to deliver on her electoral pledge to curb illegal immigration after embarrassing figures published this week by her country’s interior ministry revealed more than 100,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores so far this year.
A total of 101,386 migrants landed on Italian islands or the mainland between Jan. 1 and Aug. 16, more than double the 48,000 who arrived in the same period last year, and almost triple the 34,556 landings recorded in 2021.
With migrant activity in the Mediterranean showing no sign of slowing down, the right-wing Italian government runs the very real risk of overseeing a record number of arrivals in a single year, surpassing the 180,000 arrivals recorded at the peak of the migrant crisis in 2016.
This is despite promises from Italian conservatives to install stricter border controls, block boat landings, and establish offshore reception centers to evaluate asylum applications.
The Italian government’s attempts to restrict the movement of NGO-operated rescue vessels in the Mediterranean have failed to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the country, and the Italian island of Lampedusa has once again been saturated with new arrivals.
Regional politicians are now sounding the alarm, including hardline President of Veneto Luca Zaia of the League party, who in a recent interview with local media called on just 10 percent of new arrivals to be allowed to stay in the country.
“I’m seeing worrying numbers. Veneto is already hosting 9,000 migrants… Italy cannot be the cushion of Europe and welcome all of Africa,” he warned.
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Opposition lawmakers have sensed the opportunity to take the government to task on its immigration failures, following the Italian right’s years on the sidelines hurling insults at centrist and center-left administrations over their inability to tackle the issue.
“For years, Meloni and Salvini taunted us every summer for the number of migrant arrivals,” said former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “Now that arrivals have doubled, they try to divert attention and pretend not to see,” added the president of the left-wing Five Star Movement.
“They’re always shouting ‘close the ports’ and ‘the gravy train for migrants is over’ and ‘Italians first,’ but the right is demonstrating a manifest failure in its management of immigration,” claimed Stefano Bonaccini, the governor of Emilia Romagna in the country’s north.
Meloni’s administration, despite pledging a hardline approach, has in reality advocated a far more internationalist approach to the migration issue than many expected. In a bid to distance herself from initial comparisons to far-right administrations from the 19th century, Meloni has opted to pursue European cooperation over nationalistic attitudes as much as possible.
Italy backed down from its opposition to the European Union’s proposed Migration Pact earlier this year and announced its intention to ease restrictions on legal migrants wishing to live and work in the country.