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Reflections of Increasing Irregular Migration in Europe and Italy’s Declaration of State of Emergency

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The Italian Government declared a six-month state of emergency in April 2023 to deal with the concentration of migrants on the country’s coasts. It can be said that the increase in irregular migrants in the Mediterranean is effective on the basis of the current development. In addition, the decision taken by the Roman administration shows that there has been a serious increase in an important problem that exists throughout Europe with the year 2023. Accordingly, in 2022, irregular migration attempts have reached their highest level since 2016 in Europe.[1]

Looking at the figures obtained based on the last three months of 2023, it can be said that the rate of increase in irregular migration attempts in 2022 continues. In this sense, in the first three months of 2023, the number of irregular border crossings reported by national authorities increased by 26% compared to the same period of the previous year and reached 54.000.[2]

Italy last took a similar decision in 2011 after migrants from Tunisia overwhelmed authorities on the Lampedusa Island.[3] Therefore, this state of emergency decision in 2023 is of great importance. Because it can be said that the new state of emergency decision is the first drastic step taken a long time after the declaration of the humanitarian emergency in 2011. In this context, the development in question is a response to the intense irregular migration initiatives, which are also revealed by the statistics of 2022 and 2023. In addition to all these, the decision of the Italian Government on the state of emergency is an example that highlights the developments in Europe on the subject.

As it is known, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet pursue a right-populist policy. In this respect, the government’s state of emergency decision regarding increasing irregular migration is understandable. However, when looking at Europe in general, it is seen that similar moves have been made in some other European countries except Italy. For example, the Lithuanian Parliament passed a law on April 25, 2023, legalizing the push back of irregular migrants at the border under the state-level extreme situation regime or state of emergency.[4]

This decision taken in Lithuania is remarkable, especially considering the domestic political structure. Because Lithuania is a country where far-right populist parties have not yet gained enough power to enter the Parliament. However, the decision made revealed that other European countries can also follow policies similar to Italy against irregular migration.

In addition, the state of emergency decision issued by Italy is a proof that states can resort to drastic measures on irregular migration, apart from the decisions taken by the European Union (EU). In this context, it is known that there are criticisms against the union on the grounds of inadequacy in EU policies. The humanitarian crisis due to irregular migration attempts in 2023 has made this situation even more visible. The data published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveal that the first three months of 2023 are the deadliest period since 2017 for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, confirming this.[5] Moreover, after this report, harsh criticisms of the EU’s immigration policy came from within the European Parliament. This can be interpreted as a harbinger of the deepening of the migration crisis in Europe.

As a result, the increase in the rate of irregular migration initiatives that increased in 2022 in the first quarter of 2023 causes European countries to harden their policies regarding the problem. The state of emergency decision taken by the Italian Government is an important example in this regard. However, some current developments show that the harsh measures taken against irregular migration are not limited to Italy. The fact that the increase in irregular migration cannot be brought under control seems to leave its mark on European politics. This, in turn, may lead to increased criticism of the EU’s immigration policy and new demands, especially from Mediterranean countries.


[1] “Migrant Entry Numbers into Europe Hit Six-Year High in 2022”, The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/migrant-entry-numbers-into-europe-hit-six-year-high/article66373517.ece/amp/, (Date of Accession: 01.06.2023).

[2] “Detections in Central Mediterranean up Three-Fold in the First 3 Months of 2023”, Frontex, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news/news-release/detections-in-central-mediterranean-up-three-fold-in-the-first-3-months-of-2023-fBX34V, (Date of Accession: 02.06.2023).

[3] “Italy Declares Migrant Emergency”, Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2011/2/13/italy-declares-migrant-emergency, (Date of Accession: 02.06.2023).

[4] “Lithuania Legalises Migrant Pushbacks”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/migration/news/lithuania-legalises-migrant-pushbacks/, (Date of Accession: 02.06.2023).

[5] “Worst Migrant Death Toll in the Mediterranean Since 2017, UN Agency Reports”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/migration/news/worst-migrant-death-toll-in-the-mediterranean-since-2017-un-agency-reports/, (Date of Accession: 02.06.2023).

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