Each week, we will be posting a write-up on the most recent events regarding the immigration crisis that Italy is facing. With an influx of refugees arriving from the Middle East and Africa, our goal is to raise awareness about this important issue.
On February 28, there was an anti-immigration rally in Rome. Supporters of Italy’s right-wing Northern League protested against immigration and the European Union. The leader of this league, Matteo Salvini, accused Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of substituting the country’s interests with those of the EU. Salvini described Italy’s government immigration policies as “a disaster.” Salvini also accused the government of selling out to the EU. His main goal is to stabilize the economy, which according to Salvini is being prevented by politicians in Brussels.
Tensions are running high in Italy. It is being predicted that Salvini could emulate other right wing European leaders by capitalizing on growing resentment against immigration. Citizens in Italy are trying to cope with the large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean on boats from Libya and Syria to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Many Italians point to a lack of jobs and resources as reason for imposing harsher regulations on immigration. These protests reinforce some of the anti-immigration sentiments present in Italy.
An increase in tragedies involving refugees crossing the Mediterranean has created a need for immediate action. This past week alone, there were 1000 refugees rescued from the waters north of Libya. Three cargo ships and several Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships participated in seven different rescue missions after receiving SOS calls. According to The Guardian, there were immigrants who “had been aboard five motorized dinghies and two larger vessels. One of the larger boats capsized and 10 people were later found dead.” These deaths emphasize the limited scope and resources of the EU rescue operation, Triton, which replaced Italy’s operation Mare Nostrum. Italy ended the rescue operation last November due to the high cost (9 million Euros a month) it was sustaining without help from other member states.