Will Italy’s New Immigration Decisions Be A Solution?

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After Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced that “extraordinary measures” would be taken after thousands of immigrants arrived on Lampedusa Island last week, the policy towards immigrants was toughened with the decisions taken at the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday.

The coalition government formed by the far-right Brothers of Italy (Fdl), the right-wing populist League Party and the conservative Forza Italia decided to extend the stay in deportation centers of immigrants whose asylum applications are rejected and who need to be deported from three months to 18 months. European Union (EU) legislation stipulates that the duration of stay in removal centers should be a maximum of six months, and in exceptional cases it can be extended up to 12 months.

According to the second decision, the army was instructed to build new deportation centers “as quickly as possible” where immigrants to be deported will be held in “slightly populated areas” in the south of the country. The number and size of these repatriation centers were not disclosed. Since Italy, like many EU countries, can sign readmission agreements with a very small number of countries where asylum seekers come from, the number of immigrants who can actually be deported remains low.

Has Italy reached the limit on immigrants?

Prime Minister Meloni evaluated the decisions taken at the Council of Ministers meeting with the words: “I am pleased with the teamwork and unity within the government in order to overcome the immigrant crisis and find concrete answers to the pressure created by the influx of irregular immigrants on our shores.”

Meanwhile, most of the thousands of migrants who arrived in Lampedusa on small boats last week were taken to the mainland or Sicily. Italian news agency ANSA reported that a chaotic situation occurred in Sicily’s ports with the arrival of immigrants.

According to data from the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs, 126 thousand people immigrated to the country from January to September this year. This number shows that the number of people migrating to Italy has doubled compared to 2022. However, according to the data of the European Statistical Office (Eurostat), when Italy is compared with Germany, Austria, France, Spain or the Netherlands, which are among the countries preferred by immigrants within the EU, it becomes clear that the situation is not that bad.

According to information obtained from EU diplomats in Brussels, there are currently around 100 thousand asylum applications in Italy. In Germany, this number is around 350 thousand. In addition, there are approximately one million refugees from Ukraine in Germany. It is stated that the number of refugees coming from Ukraine in Italy is 167 thousand.

Could There Be An EU Mission In The Mediterranean?

Prime Minister Meloni did not repeat on Monday his suggestion, which he made last week, that the EU should activate a naval mission if necessary to prevent immigrants coming from North Africa. However, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who was in New York for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly discussions, repeated a similar suggestion and said that the UN and NATO should also be involved in this mission.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who visited Lampedusa Island last Sunday with Italian Prime Minister Meloni, also stated that naval mission options should be examined. Von der Leyen’s statement was part of a 10-point plan that did not bring many new proposals. The EU had previously served actively in the Mediterranean to combat irregular migration, and had implemented three missions, Mare Nostrum, Triton and Sophia, under the command of Italy.

Is Migration A European Issue?

Italian Prime Minister Meloni gives the message to the EU that the immigration issue is not only a problem of Italy, but of the whole of Europe: “Europe, especially with its presence on its borders that are exposed to illegal mass migration, is the problem of Lampedusa, not only of Italy but also of Europe.” It shows there is a limit.”

It is a known fact that migration is a test for Europe and that the EU Border Protection Agency (Frontex) has been working with member states to protect the external borders of the EU for years. For this reason, Germany’s former Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, together with the right-wing populist former interior ministers of Italy and Austria, Matteo Salvini and Herbert Kickl, called for a “solution at the European level” in 2018, but this call did not achieve any results.

Meloni emphasized the symbolic importance of von der Leyen’s visit to Lampedusa and said that he will now carefully follow how the 10-item plan presented by von der Leyen will be implemented, especially the agreement with Tunisia. Meloni envisions economic aid to Tunisia in exchange for preventing immigrants from coming to Europe. However, there is no commitment made by Tunisia on this issue yet.

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