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Giorgia Meloni meet with Ursula von der Leyen. Facebook
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Three months into Meloni tenure sees migrant arrivals exploding

It has been a disturbing development. Despite its right-wing government, which has now been in office for almost three months, the number of illegal immigrants in Italy continues to rise steeply. This has caused many voters to become dissatisfied with the right-wing government under Giorgia Meloni.

Published: January 18, 2023, 6:31 am

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    Even after almost three months, the new Italian right-wing government has still not succeeded in bringing about the promised asylum turnaround. Italy is, as ever, inundated by masses of illegal immigrants who are being landed by numerous “rescue” ships.

    The facts are that contrary to Italian Interior Minister Piatendosi’s claim that the number of Mediterranean migrants has fallen in the first two months of government, Interior Ministry statistics show that since Meloni took office, migrant boat arrivals have risen massively compared to the same period last year.

    In November and December 2022, around 20 000 migrants came to Europe via Italy’s ports. For comparison: in 2021 there were “only” 12 600 migrants in these two months.

    The balance sheet for the new year 2023 is even more dramatic. In the first 10 days, another 3 709 migrants were reported, which corresponds to an almost tenfold increase (2022: 378).

    Interior Minister Piatendosi, when confronted with the statistics, claimed that the new wave of migration has been favored by milder weather conditions and that the figures were only “partially” correct.

    Many voters who expected the new Meloni government to take decisive measures to curb the influx of illegal immigrants or even a “zero limit” are increasingly disappointed. So far, her government has mainly limited itself to symbolic politics, while people smugglers and NGOs continue to pursue their activities in the Mediterranean almost undisturbed.

    Piantedosi had criticized the fact that the NGO-operated ships encourage illegal passage of migrant boats across the Mediterranean. “We cannot allow private ships flying the flag of another country to replace the Italian government. Our goal is to get the migration phenomenon under control,” Piantedosi said at the beginning of the year.

    “We have noticed that the quality of the boats on which the migrants leave has dropped, which contributes to the tragedies that then occur at sea,” added the non-aligned minister. Piantedosi dismissed the aid organizations’ accusation that the government was allocating its rescue ships to landing ports in the northern Adriatic to extend their sea route and distance them from the central Mediterranean.

    Von der Leyen criticises Meloni decree

    The Italian government passed a decree in late December intended to make it more difficult for “rescue” ships to land in southern Italy. The cabinet wants to limit systematic rescue operations by NGO ships.

    According to media reports, rescued “refugees” should submit their asylum application while still on board the ship, which is to be accepted by the ship’s flag state. NGO vessels conducting rescue operations must “meet the requirements of technical and nautical suitability for safe navigation,” the immigration decree states.

    On this issue, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen held talks with the Italian head of government in Rome recently. She criticized the Meloni course. “It is not for the EU to deal with the content of this decree. Irrespective of this, the member states must respect international law and the law of the sea,” emphasized the spokeswoman for the EU Commission. Saving lives at sea is a “moral and legal obligation”.

    The Italian Interior Minister Piantedosi had hoped that the migration issue would be settled at European level, but dampened expectations himself: “Europe is a bit slow in its mechanisms, and the meeting between Meloni and Von der Leyen was certainly important, but it wasn’t decisive. In any case, we have put the discussion on immigration back at the center of the European agenda,” said the Minister of the Interior. This is of course nothing new.

    Zelensky praises Meloni’s ‘values’

    Meloni meanwhile received support for her policies from… Ukraine. President Vladimir Zelensky praised the premier in an interview to be broadcast on Italian TV Tuesday night.

    Zelensky said the premier, whom he called by her first name, was “extremely concrete”. He said: “Her rhetoric is extremely clear to me. I see Giorgia as pro-Italian and that is the most important thing: that she is pro-Italian and she supports Ukraine. And she supports common values.”

    The Italian leader plans to visit Ukraine soon. “I’m really looking forward to her coming on an official visit to Ukraine,” Zelensky added. “She will come soon, I can’t communicate the date, but soon,” he told host Bruno Vespa on the Porta a Porta show on Raiuno.

    Almost 8 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the war against Russia started in February, Europe’s largest refugee wave since World War II, with the majority of those now in the European Union.

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