Italy’s Challenge with Irregular Migration

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Italy has been standing out as one of the states that have the toughest stance on irregular migration among the European Union (EU) member states for many years. In this context, the policies of the governments that have taken office in Italy towards irregular migration are continuous. Especially the geopolitical position of Italy leads to the fact that the country has become an important route for migration.

On the other hand, the fact that the right-wing bloc gained a clear advantage after the general elections held in September 2022 in Italy and then Giorgia Meloni took the Prime Minister’s seat in October 2022 led to important changes in the policy pursued by the Rome administration towards irregular migrants. In this context, with the process that started with Meloni becoming Prime Minister, there has been an increase in developments against migrants in Rome’s migration policy.

In this context, the Meloni administration issued a decree in January 2023 that tried to restrict the arrival of migrants to Italy. In this sense, it is seen that within the scope of the decree, the Italian Government is trying to restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to prevent the flow of migrants to the country. In this context, measures such as fines were imposed on ship captains.[1]

However, the Rome administration considers that ships guided by NGOs encourage migration to Italy. Therefore, the Italian Government wants to reduce the number of migrants coming to the country by taking measures such as fines on NGO captains. In this context, the activities of ships belonging to NGOs carrying irregular migrants are tried to be prevented. The decree caused controversy at the time that more migrants could lose their lives, especially in the Mediterranean.

On the other hand, more than 60 people, including children, lost their lives as a result of the sinking of a wooden boat carrying irregular migrants off the southern coast of Italy on February 26, 2023. Meloni said Italian authorities had not received emergency communications from the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex and that there had been no warning that the boat was in danger of sinking. Following the incident, Meloni blamed the human traffickers, while Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi pointed out that new measures should be taken to reduce such dangerous journeys.[2] Therefore, after the tragedy, it is seen that the Italian Government will not take a step back in terms of migration policy. On the contrary, it is understood that she may resort to harsher practices in her policy.

On the other hand, Piantedosi stated on February 27, 2023, that harsh Greek border policies may have contributed to encouraging a journey to Italy instead of Greece. Moreover, Piantedosi stressed that Greece has implemented strict restriction policies on those arriving along the route, including the pushback that the EU is scrutinising.[3]

The statements made by the Italian Minister of Interior indicate that there may be some disagreements in the future along the Athens-Rome line. Because Greece comes before Italy within the framework of the route where migrants come. In this respect, the fact that migrants are heading to Italy instead of Greece is due to Athens’ harsher policy on irregular migration from Rome. In this context, it is quite remarkable that Piantedosi refers to the practices of pushback, which Greece strongly rejects.

On the other hand, another point that should be noted is that Italy is trying to improve its relations with North African countries in order to prevent irregular migration to the country. In this context, the partnership that Italy has developed with North African countries such as Algeria and Libya is extremely important.

In this context, Meloni visited Algeria, Libya and Egypt in January 2023 in order to reach an agreement on migration. In this sense, Italy has improved its relations with Libya by an agreement stating that it will provide Libya with EU-funded boats to send migrants back. The agreement between Italy and Libya has been strongly criticized by the High Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, for systematically leading to human rights violations.[4]

However, the Rome administration is careful to use the EU factor to prevent irregular migration to the country. Meloni, for example, wants EU Heads of State to give more money to Africa and create “European humanitarian corridors” to curb irregular migration.[5]

On the other hand, President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen praised Italy’s response to the irregular migration crisis in Europe in a letter to Meloni on March 6, 2023. In this context, Leyen pointed out that migration is a European problem that requires a European solution.[6] As can be understood, the EU senior management has shown that it will not leave Italy alone in its policy against irregular migration.

In conclusion, it can be foreseen that the reactions of NGOs organized within the framework of human rights in Europe against the irregular migration policy of the Rome administration may increase even more.  It can be said that Italy will continue its harsh policy against irregular migrants. However, the main objective of the Meloni Government on irregular migration is to deter migrants from coming to the country as much as possible.

[1] “In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s Government Targets NGOs Rescuing Migrants at Sea”, Le Monde,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[2] “Children and Women Among 64 Dead as Migrant Boat Hits Rocks Near Italy”, CNN,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[3] “Greece’s Policies May Affect Migrant Sea Routes to Italy-Italian Minister”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[4] “Redistribution of Migrants ‘Never My Priority’, Says Italy’s Meloni”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[5] “Italy Wants More Money for Africa to Curb Arrivals in Europe”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[6] “Commission Chief Praises Italy’s Stance on Migration Following Shipwreck”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.