Sunday

13th Oct 2019

Opinion

Italian MEP candidates scaremongering on immigration

  • Migrants from Africa in the Mediterranean (Photo: AFM)

The politics of fear are taking the stage in the upcoming European elections in Italy. Scaremongering is being used by representatives of both the majority and the opposition, by leaders of the European People's Party Forza Italia and populist parties, as well as by high-level government officials.

For example, last month Angelino Alfano, Italian Minister of Home Affairs claimed: "Italy is under strong migratory pressure. Between 300,000 and 600,000 migrants are ready to leave from the Libyan coasts."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

And Giovanni Pinto, head of the Italian Immigration and Border Police agency said: "At least 800,000 migrants are about to depart the North African coast for Europe." He later admitted that those numbers were "not a concrete projection" but only "an estimate of the potential base of would-be immigrants".

MEP Iva Zanicchi, a Forza Italia candidate for the 25 May election, also stoked fears when referring to an influx of immigrants: "Remember this word: ebola. It's coming. Yes folks, there is cholera."

And Populist Beppe Grillo, leader of the M5S party, last week played the immigrant card: "The problem … [are] those who come from the east. [With Bulgaria and Romania] a bargain was made: the gypsies came to Italy and the companies opened factories there."

Waving the threat of an 'alien invasion' has been a permanent feature of populist political discourse across Europe in recent electoral campaigns, whether for European, national or local elections.

Nevertheless, there is something new this time in Italy: a European dimension which was almost totally missing in previous campaigns.

This time Italian politicians are urging EU institutions, rather than the national government, to declare a war on (illegal) immigration or to at least strengthen the protection of external borders, making Europe a real fortress.

Migrants and refugees continue to be scapegoats, but the final target has changed: it is the European Union itself.

Eurocritics have good arguments. On one hand, immigration policies undoubtedly need to be European as Italy's borders are EU borders. Most asylum seekers entering Italy are not aiming to stay; they would rather try to reach countries that guarantee better living conditions and work opportunities or where their relatives and friends are already established, mostly France, Germany or the UK.

On the other hand, the costs of search and rescue operations at sea are high: the current operational costs of the humanitarian and military mission covering the Mediterranean Sea, 'Mare Nostrum', are over €9 million per month.

Claims for more organisational and financial support to help Italy to control the EU's external borders and the request to other member states to 'share the burden' of the influx of refugees and immigrants sound reasonable.

Blaming the EU for every possible thing is thus an easy way to gain consensus.

The 'scary migrants' campaign, however, fails to take into consideration basic data.

Neither Minister Alfano nor Forza Italia nor M5S candidates have ever mentioned that the EU has already transferred more than €80 million to Italy for migration management.

The existence of a Frontex mission (the EU border agency) in the Mediterranean Sea is scarcely known. The fact that Italy, with a population of 60 million, hosts less than 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers while Sweden, with a population of 9.5 million, hosts more than 50,000 is simply ignored.

Most importantly, anti-EU campaigners fail to recognise that the absence of a genuine European policy on immigration and external borders is not a demonstration of EU wickedness; it is a consequence of member states' jealous defence of their national sovereignty.

If we are to have a common immigration policy then we have to ask for deeper EU integration instead of asking 'evil Brussels' to leave us alone.

Common immigration and border policies imply common foreign, social and labour policies. Urging the European Union to 'take its responsibility', whilst denying the need for a genuine political union and asking for less interference in internal affairs, is nothing but a trick.

The writer is Chairperson of the Centre of Initiative for Europe and National Coordinator of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) in Italy

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Europeans say they are tolerant, but oppose immigration

Europeans like to think of themselves as being liberal and tolerant, but at the same time oppose immigration, particularly from countries outside the EU, a poll carried out in Britain, France, Germany, Poland and Spain shows.

Italian right calls for end to migrant rescue programme

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.

Let girls own the future

While our politics is dominated by old and bullying alpha males and the negativity they have injected into our times, there is at least one day of hope - and it is through unleashing the power of young girls.

Column

Habsburg lessons for Europe's foreign policy

The EU is facing similar challenges. Like the Habsburgs, it must work out ways to navigate an increasingly messy geo-political map and stand firm without the advantage of military predominance.

News in Brief

  1. Italy: EU cannot accept Turkish 'blackmail'
  2. Is a Brexit deal still possible?
  3. EU and UK to 'intensify' Brexit talks
  4. Norway hit by train strike over EU regulations
  5. Macron says he warned von der Leyen on Goulard
  6. France: EU will retaliate in aviation state aid battle
  7. EU considers new rules and agency against dirty money
  8. France against accession talks for North Macedonia, Albania

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us