Italy: New government could soften stance on immigration

Italy’s new Interior Minister Lamorgese is seen as a moderate who may re-open ports to rescue vessels, but PM Conte wants the EU to show more solidarity with Italy in return. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.

One day after being confirmed as Italy’s prime minister by a coalition of populists and socialists, Giuseppe Conte has traveled to Brussels, where he is meeting the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to discuss issues including Italy’s approach to immigration.

Conte has repeatedly announced his desire to adopt a “responsible, accurate and structured” approach to immigration. The prime minister wants to crack down on illegal migration and human smuggling, while also working hard to integrate asylum-seekers who have a right to stay in the country.

What does Lamorgese want?

Unlike former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party, his successor Luciana Lamorgese — an independent bureaucrat — wants to take a more lenient approach to Italy’s security laws, according to media reports. Italy expert Lutz Klinkhammer of the German Historical Institute in Rome (DHI Rome) says that Salvini “was using his position to campaign; but now his successor wants to get back to business as usual.” This, in his view, means “securing Italian ports and working to further the national interest.” He says that while Italy’s national interests are not threatened by migrants arriving, the country “wants to show the EU that it will not be the only country taking them in.”

Luciana Lamorgese and Giuseppe Conte (AFP/A. Solaro)Lamorgese and Conte are expected to take a more conciliatory tone on immigration

It is not clear at this point whether Italian ports will again permit private sea rescue vessels to dock there, after Salvini had closed them to such ships. Klinkhammer says “I could well imagine Italy no longer criminalizing the sea rescue missions, but that does not mean the country’s ports will be opened.” Private rescue ship “Ocean Viking,” which has taken aboard 80 individuals who were in distress at sea, is currently headed toward Italy. This means Lamorgese must soon decide if she will permit the rescued individuals to go ashore. Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of Italy’s Democratic party, which is now part of the governing coalition, is clear on the matter. He says they should be let ashore “no ifs, no buts, and with great compassion.”