Italy faces migration pressure on two fronts, 800,000 Ukrainian refugees expected

Refugees from Lviv, Ukraine, arrive at a Red Cross headquarters in Rome, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. A convoy of Red Cross vehicles carrying 80 people, mostly elderly and sick arrived Tuesday in Rome. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

The regional governors of the Italian League party are pushing for a new migration policy, as the wave of refugees resulting from the Russo-Ukrainian conflict poses another challenge to a country.

It is estimated that Italians will need to prepare for the arrival of up to 800,000 Ukrainian refugees, while pressure on the southern shores from Africa has not disappeared, and the number of arrivals from Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan via the Balkan route have increased as spring arrives.

As a result, Italy is facing a double wave of refugees, and Massimiliano Fedriga, the governor of the north-eastern province of Friuli Venezia Giulia autonomous region, has called for a pushback against refugees and the detention of illegal immigrants. Fedriga called on the Italian government to help curb migrants approaching Italy via the Balkan route.

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In his view, a distinction should be made between those coming from Ukraine and other refugees.

While the war-torn area is dominated by women and children, the Balkan route is made up of men and young people claiming to be minors.

“The problem is not with Ukrainian refugees, but with those coming from Africa,” the League politician said. The governor also drew attention to the danger of a proliferation of human traffickers operating along the border, and requested the government strengthen its border protection — there is a high risk that even more illegal immigrants will attempt to reach the country by taking advantage of the Ukrainian crisis.

Fedriga’s announcement goes head-to-head with that of Italy’s far-left government.

“It is not up to politics to decide which refugee is eligible for protection,” politicians of the governing Five Star Movement argued. The left wing of the regional council called it “appalling” that, in view of the severe refugee crisis, the provincial leadership is working to strengthen controls on border sections instead of solidarity.

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Italy has long struggled with its growing migrant population. The country’s prisons are already full of foreign criminals, there have been ongoing sexual assault and rape cases involving the country’s migrant population, and integration issues remain a major source of concern.

Go Italy! Senator Franco Dal Mas, a senator for the center-right party, backs the idea of an Italy that takes a harsher line on immigration. He would not only give Fedriga’s province special treatment and financial support, but also called for the strengthening of soldiers and law enforcement in the border area.

The wave of refugees on the southern shores remains an ongoing humanitarian crisis and a potential security threat to the country. The civilian ship Ocean Viking arrived to the port of Augusta in Sicily on Monday with 157 immigrants aboard. Two people did not survive the sea crossing, and a pregnant woman was helped ashore out of line while waiting for the ship and was given immediate medical attention.

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