The Brothers of Italy party – which topped the polls with 26 percent of the vote on 25 September – has its roots in Italy’s post-war neo-fascist movement. The party’s head, Giorgia Meloni, is set to become Italy’s next leader – and its first female prime minister. She is looking to form a governing coalition with the far-right League party and the centre-right Forza Italia party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The main issues for voters in the election were rising energy prices, inflation, and Italy’s policy towards Russia and Ukraine. However, the winning coalition also campaigned on a hardline anti-migration platform, promising to implement a naval blockade to prevent asylum seekers and migrants from reaching Italian ports and to follow in the UK’s and Denmark’s footsteps by attempting to send asylum seekers outside Europe to have their claims processed.
Migration and rights experts told The New Humanitarian they expect the new government to also crack down on NGOs and volunteers carrying out search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean and providing humanitarian support to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Italy.
In the lead-up to the election, there were several high-profile violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants, including the killing of Alika Ogorchukwu, a 39-year-old Nigerian man who was beaten to death in broad daylight in the town of Civitanova Marche in July, which put a spotlight on racism in Italian society.
The leader of the League party is Matteo Salvini. His tenure as Italy’s interior minister from June 2018 to September 2019 provides a good indication of the policies a new, far-right government is likely to pursue, according to Carmine Conte, a legal policy analyst at the Brussels-based Migration Policy Group think tank.
Salvini closed Italy’s ports to search and rescue NGOs, gutted the Italian asylum reception system, and made it more difficult for people to receive humanitarian protection in the country.
Salvini – who remains on trial over charges stemming from his refusal to let rescued asylum seekers and migrants disembark in an Italian port in August 2019 – is unlikely to return as interior minister because his party performed poorly in this election. But “now we are going… towards hostile, anti-migrant policies on the same level as Salvini,” Conte said.
Ukrainians who have escaped the Russian invasion will likely be exempt from this hardline approach, according to Conte, exemplifying a double standard seen across Europe in the treatment of Ukrainians and people from other parts of the world seeking safety.
According to Migration Analysis 28 September 2022, what a far-right government in Italy means for asylum seekers and migrants
Beyond stoking racism and xenophobia, experts fear Meloni could double down on migration policies that lead to more deaths at sea.
Eric Reidy, Migration Editor-at-large, The New Humanitarian.