Italy: “The Party is Over” for Illegal Migrants

Italy: “The Party is Over” for Illegal Migrants

  • An estimated 700,000 migrants have arrived in Italy during the past five years. — International Organization for Migration (IOM).
  • “There are not enough homes or jobs for Italians, let alone for half the African continent.” — Matteo Salvini, Interior Minister, Italy.
  • This law [Article 19 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights] effectively prevents Italy and other EU members from deporting migrants to most countries in the Muslim world.

Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has vowed to cut aid money for migrants and to deport those who illegally are in the country.

“Open doors in Italy for the right people and a one-way ticket out for those who come here to make trouble and think that we will provide for them,” Salvini said in the Lombardy region, home to a quarter of the total foreign population in Italy. “One of our top priorities will be deportation.”

Salvini, leader of the nationalist League (Lega) party, formed a new coalition government with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) on June 1. The government’s program, outlined in a 39-page action plan, promises to crack down on illegal immigration and to deport up to 500,000 undocumented migrants.

“The party is over for illegal immigrants,” Salvini said at a June 2 rally in Vicenza. “They will have to pack their bags, in a polite and calm manner, but they will have to go. Refugees escaping from war are welcome, but all others must leave.”

From left to right: Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Labor and Industry and Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio on June 1, 2018 in Rome. (Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)

On June 3, Salvini visited Sicily, one of the main landing points in Europe for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. He said:

“Enough of Sicily being the refugee camp of Europe. I will not stand by and do nothing while there are landings after landings of migrants. We need deportation centres.

“There are not enough homes or jobs for Italians, let alone for half the African continent. We need to use common sense.”

Salvini also accused Tunisian authorities of deliberately sending criminals to Italy:

“Tunisia is a free and democratic country that is not exporting gentlemen but often willingly exports convicts. I will speak to my Tunisian counterpart, it does not seem to me that there are wars, pestilence or famine in Tunisia.”

Italy is the main European gateway for migrants arriving by sea: 119,369 arrived by sea in 2017 and 181,436 in 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). An estimated 700,000 migrants have arrived in Italy during the past five years.

Italy has been the main point of entry to Europe since the EU-Turkey migrant deal, signed in March 2016, shut off the route from Turkey to Greece, at one time the preferred point of entry to Europe for migrants from Asia and the Middle East.

In February 2017, Italy signed a migrant deal with Libya to intercept boats and return migrants to Libya. The deal, in which Italy committed to equipping and financing the Libyan coast guard, resulted in a 75% decrease in arrivals during the summer of 2017. Since the beginning of 2018, however, more than 13,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya. Those numbers are expected to increase during the summer as the weather improves.

Meanwhile, Italy deported only 6,514 migrants in 2017, and 5,817 in 2016. The new government has pledged to speed up deportations by converting migrant reception centers into deportation centers. Deportations, however, are expensive and complex.

According to Italian law, for example, at least two agents must escort each deportee in an elaborate operation. The newspaper La Repubblica described a recent deportation operation of 29 Tunisians, who were escorted on an aircraft chartered from Bulgaria by 74 government agents, including doctors, nurses, armed police and unarmed plainclothes officers, at a total cost of €115,000 ($135,000), or €3,965 per deportee.

At this rate, the new government’s pledge to deport 500,000 migrants would cost Italian taxpayers nearly €2 billion ($2.3 billion).

The previous government allotted around five billion euros to pay for expenses related to the migrant crisis in 2018: 20% is for rescues at sea; 15% for health care, and 65% for migrant reception centres, which currently host around 200,000 people.

The new government has said that it wants to divert some of the funds allotted for the reception centers to pay for deportations. In addition to the financial costs, Italy faces legal hurdles that make mass deportations nearly impossible.

Article 19, Paragraph 2 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights states:

“No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

This law effectively prevents Italy and other EU members from deporting migrants to most countries in the Muslim world.

The new government has also pledged to negotiate more bilateral deportation agreements. Italy currently has deportation agreements with only five countries: Egypt, Gambia, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia. Migrants cannot be deported without approval from the states of origin.

Salvini has also said that Italy will reject proposed changes to the Dublin Regulation, a law that requires people seeking refuge within the EU to do so in the first European country they reach. The Dublin Regulation will be the focus of a meeting between the interior ministers of the 28 EU members states in Luxembourg on June 4.

Italy’s geographic location means that it has borne disproportionate responsibility for illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East, but Salvini said that other EU member states are resisting changes that would require them to share the burden: “They want to weigh down the Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Spain, giving us thousands of more migrants for a period ten years.”

EU law currently requires member states to be financially responsible for migrants arriving in their countries for a period of ten years. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, want that responsibility to be reduced to eight years, but Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain want to lessen it to a maximum of two years.

Meanwhile, pro-EU, pro-mass migration and pro-multiculturalism media outlets have gone into attack mode in an effort to undermine the new Italian government.

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About the author

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow Soeren Kern on Twitter and Facebook

 

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