As Giorgia Meloni settles into her new role as prime minister of Italy there are growing concerns about the status of migrants under the far-right leader.
Meloni has taken aim at what she calls lax immigration policies that risk turning Italy into “refugee camp of Europe.” As BBC News noted, Italy has long been a hub for irregular migrants entering Europe with more than 77,000 crossing into the country in 2022.
Meloni is expected to lead the most right-wing Italian government since fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Her Brothers of Italy party is coming off strong support in the general election.
Meloni, who was sworn in on Saturday, has stressed that one of her platform goals is to reduce, if not totally end, foreign migration into Italy and tighten the country’s borders.
Pushing an “Italy first” agenda, critics are wary that patriotic rhetoric is another form of xenophobia and Islamophobia. She campaigned on a stricter border policy to protect Italy from “Islamization.”
On Tuesday, she was given a standing ovation in her first speech to the Chamber of Deputies.
“We do not intend in any way to question the right of asylum for those fleeing wars and persecutions,” said Meloni.
“All we want to do in relation to immigration is to stop the people traffickers from having the choice of deciding who enters Italy.”
Meloni says that migration threatens the security of its borders and the quality of life for its citizens. She specifically wants to block charity ships that rescue migrants caught in the Mediterranean Sea despite an international law that protects such ships.
During her address, Meloni said that she has felt pressure as Italy’s first woman prime minister and described herself as “an underdog.”
Her victory in September followed the resignation of popular Prime Minister Mario Draghi, an economist praised for his handling of the eurozone crisis when he was the head of the European Central Bank. Meloni, meanwhile, faces surging inflation and an energy crisis.