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The Italian electoral campaign puts the migration issue on the right…


Palermo (Italy).- It’s a battle already won, whatever the outcome of the elections on Sunday, September 25. In substance and form, the ideas of the “centre-right” on migration and security issues have deeply infused Italian political debate.

However, the theme seems of less importance compared to the last legislative elections in March 2018. At the time, Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, made thunderous statements to the rhythm of the slogan “Italians first”. The Five Star Movement, its ally in the Conte I government, attacks the “sea taxi”. Luigi Di Maio’s expression refers to the NGO ships that come to the aid of migrant boats in the Mediterranean. Matteo Salvini then accedes to the Ministry of the Interior.

There followed two years of arm wrestling with the European Union, ships blocked at sea for several days and a policy of criminalizing NGOs.

Since then, the context has changed. The conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions on energy prices, with the theme of the high cost of living, imposed themselves in the campaign. The theme is also less central in relation to the European Unionexplains Stefano Torelli, researcher and specialist in migration issues in the Mediterranean. Attention is now focused on the “Recovery Fund”, the recovery plan for which large sums are at stake for Italy. » It is difficult to continue to fire red balls at the European Union in the face of the tens of billions of euros allocated to the country.

Finally, the figures for migrant arrivals on the Italian coasts have fallen considerably: just over 68,000 since the beginning of the year, i.e. around a third of the total arrivals in 2016. The trend is however on the rise after a year 2020 with approximately 20,000 arrivals and barely double the following year. But there was no real substantive debate on the subject, the centre-right coalition thus having every opportunity to seize the subject to impose its ideas.

Controversial videos

There were indeed a few heated exchanges between the candidates, a few controversial videos of which the Italian populist parties have the secret. At the beginning of September, Alessio Di Giulio, municipal councilor of the League in Florence, films himself alongside a Roma woman. “You don’t want to see her anymore?he laughs, shirt open and sunglasses on his nose. If you don’t want to see her anymore, vote the League on September 25! » The video ended up being removed from Facebook, just as Twitter censored a video posted by Giorgia Meloni days earlier.

The scene takes place in the street, on a piece of sidewalk that we guess behind the pixels that hide the worst: a woman is raped. Or rather, according to the caption given by the far-right candidate who promises a security tightening: a Ukrainian woman is raped by an asylum seeker.

A neighbor, alerted by the cries, called the emergency services before filming the scene. The assailant is arrested in flagrante delicto. The video goes viral. The victim is recognized and shares his terror and distress in the newspapers. Faced with this ultra-virulent political communication, Matteo Salvini seems overwhelmed on his right.

It is the same impression when Giorgia Meloni defends the idea of ​​a “naval blockade”that’s to say “a European mission in agreement with the Libyan authorities to open regrouping centers in Africa, assess who has the right to be refugees there, redistribute these refugees and send back the others”according to the explanations that she delivers to the television news TG1.

In the campaign, divergent positions emerged between the League and Fratelli d’Italia on migration issues, in particular on irregular arrivals of migrantsanalyzes Stefano Torelli. There is no common strategy within the right-wing coalition. For example, Giorgia Meloni raised the possibility of a naval blockade, while this proposal had been abandoned by Matteo Salvini, who, paradoxically, almost seems to have a softer line on these issues. »

This is probably where the centre-right coalition has already won the ideological battle on these issues. Matteo Salvini’s extreme positions during his 2018 campaign now seem hackneyed. Social networks, skilfully used by the candidates of the League or Fratelli d’Italia, offer free forums to the most uninhibited stagings, without any filter. Each time, the reactions are outraged. In fact, the debate is confiscated by the form without questioning the substance.

Proof of this is another video that scandalized Italians during this campaign. This time the victim is Nigerian. Alika Ogorchukwu was 39 years old. This street vendor was beaten up in the city center of Civitanova Marche, in the Marche region (center). His killing, in broad daylight, was filmed and broadcast. Nobody came to his aid.

On the Italian origin of the aggressor, to whom he made the affront of insistently asking for a coin, no comment. Among the 250 people who came to pay their last respects to him during a demonstration, no candidate. The inquest into his death so far rules out racial hatred.

A demonstration in Milan on August 6 to demand justice for Alika Ogorchukwu, who was killed in Civitanova Marche on July 29. © Photo Piero Cruciatti / Anadolu Agency via AFP

His aggression is reminiscent of another. Four years earlier, still in the Marches, in Macerata, and still in the middle of the electoral campaign, Luca Traini opened fire on a car. He injured six men from sub-Saharan Africa. He denies any racist act and explains that he wanted to avenge the murder of a young Italian woman by a Nigerian man, a news item that had shaken the country.

This sympathizer of a fascist group had been a candidate a few years earlier for the Northern League. During the demonstration against racism organized a few days later, again, no major political party leader was present.

Demographic crisis

After the death of Alika Ogorchukwu, the Italian Anti-Racist Committee publishes an open letter, denounces what is a clear “episode of racism”. He also underlines the precariousness of the activity of the deceased, forced to sell handkerchiefs and small objects for lack of work: “This is a tangible sign of the lack of support policies for labor market integration and the absence of viable structural policies against unemployment and poverty. Such conditions have an impact on the generation of their daughters and sons, on their future possibilities in terms of social mobility, and on their destiny as a social class. »

However, in an Italy in the midst of a demographic crisis, the second oldest country in the world after Japan, these questions were not the subject of the slightest debate during the campaign. “Some themes are less popular than othersrecognizes Stefano Torelli, including the Democratic Party’s campaign around equal rights for citizens. »

In the wake of this campaign, a major reform has been awaited for almost 20 years by nearly 1.3 million daughters and sons of “migrants”, that of the 1992 nationality law, which does not recognize the right of floor. Whether or not they were born in Italy, they are considered foreign residents if their parents did not obtain Italian citizenship. They must wait until they are 18 to apply, under certain conditions.

The text was to be discussed in the Italian Parliament… before it was dissolved in July. “We took a step back. I have the impression that even the left considers the reform of the law on nationality and jus soli as divisive, and it is not certain that these themes have consensus, including within the electorate on the left »analyzes migration specialist Stefano Torelli.

The activists had organized a major awareness campaign on the subject and several mobilizations in June. Their hopes of seeing the text discussed again have been completely dashed by the tone of this new campaign. The issue of nationality should be neither left nor right”, regrets Stefano Edward, whose parents are Tamils, originally from Sri Lanka.

It took several years after his majority to obtain Italian nationality. “It’s an important question because it’s a human right, to be officially recognized from an identity point of view. We love a country that doesn’t recognize us, what kind of life is it? », asks the one who is also a member of Italians without citizenship. In May, the association launched an appeal to the government, whose main question remains unanswered: “We are ready, and you? »

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