Thursday

1st Dec 2022

Italian right calls for end to migrant rescue programme

  • Thousands of migrants are expected to arrive in Europe from North Africa in 2014 (Photo: Frontex)

Italian right-wing politicians have called for the country's programme to rescue North African refugees from the Mediterranean sea to be scrapped after figures suggested that 1,100 immigrants had been rescued in the past two days.

The figures are the highest since Italy launched a naval operation known as "Mare Nostrum" (Our Sea) last October to rescue would-be migrants at sea in the wake of two shipwrecks off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa which killed more than 600 people.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Since its creation, Mare Nostrum has rescued more than 20,000 people from the Mediterranean at an estimated cost of €9 million a month, according to Italian media reports.

Following the Arab Spring in 2011, which sparked a series of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe.

The issue is likely to become a focal point in Italy's European election campaign over the coming weeks after Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigration Northern League party, called for the operation to be scrapped, saying "Italian citizens end up financing the people smugglers and an invasion of our coasts."

Meanwhile, Maurizio Gasparri, a former minister in Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, described the programme as an "expensive and maniacal operation" which "must be immediately stopped," in a statement on Tuesday (22 April).

The Italian government continues to call for more EU help in patrolling the Mediterranean, together with greater burden-sharing of refugees between EU countries. Southern states Portugal, Spain and Malta have also called for greater financial support from the EU.

Migratory pressure across the Mediterranean "is far from diminishing, it is increasing", said ministers from Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Spain last week.

For its part, the EU's border patrol agency Frontex has provided €7.1 million for its Italian operations so far this year out of a total budget for 2014 of €89 million.

Angelino Alfano, Italy's interior minister, has said that more than 60,000 migrants will land in Italy from North Africa this year, a higher number than ever before.

“This is not just an Italian issue, we will fight in Europe to defend this border properly,” he said last week, calling for more EU assistance.

However, Senator Luigi Manconi from the governing centre-left Democratic Party, head of the human rights committee in parliament, has played down the scale of the problem and criticised the Italian government's response.

"We are not facing an invasion, absolutely not. We have to criticise ourselves for not putting in the necessary measures in time," he said.

EU expands patrol mission around Lampedusa

Frontex, the EU's border agency, has extended until the end of August its patrolling mission around the Italian island of Lampedusa and widened its area of operations, as the influx of Tunisian migrants continues to outpace the flights and naval transport to the Italian mainland.

Opinion

Italian MEP candidates scaremongering on immigration

While playing the 'influx of immigrants' card is nothing new to Italian electoral campaigns, this is the first time that candidates are demanding EU institutions, rather than simply national government, to declare war on illegal immigration.

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us