Analysis. 'In Italy and Europe, there is a need for a radical change in immigration policies.' The Five Stars put on the brakes: 'No bold leaps forward.'

Zingaretti is ready to end the racist ‘Salvini decrees’ – M5S says not so fast

“On the matter of the security decrees and the pact with Libya, it’s time for a change,” said Nicola Zingaretti after the PD’s victory in Emilia-Romagna, declaring his intention to push the axis of the yellow-red government further to the left. 

He wants to do so starting with two measures that are symbolic of the fight against immigration: not only Matteo Salvini’s security decrees, but also the policies of the past government led by the PD’s own Paolo Gentiloni, who signed the controversial memorandum with Tripoli to finance the Libyan Coast Guard. 

Should the agreement concluded in 2017 with Libyan Prime Minister al-Sarraj be changed today? “Certainly,” the secretary of the Democratic Party said on television Thursday, going on to brand the measures passed at the initiative of the Lega leader as merely “propaganda decrees” based on fear. “I am in favor of passing new decrees for urban safety, something Salvini never did. This means welcoming, integration, clean streets,” he explained. 

However, the M5S Undersecretary of the Interior, Carlo Sibilia, was keen to put the brakes on the PD secretary’s desire for change: according to Sibilia, changes to the Salvini decrees can be made only on the basis of the indications given at the time by President of the Republic Mattarella. “This being said,” warned the Five Stars politician, “if someone wants to make bold leaps forward or put into question something that was a government agreement, then they should take responsibility for that.”

Once again, immigration is one of the fulcrums on which the precarious balance of the executive is perched. On Thursday, there was a public appeal to leave behind policies based exclusively on repression, coming from the Democratic Party MEPs Pietro Bartolo and Pierfrancesco Majorino and from the head of the “Coraggiosa” list in Emilia-Romagna, Elly Schlein: “In Italy and Europe, there is a need for a radical change in immigration policies,” said the three politicians. “We need a new basic law on a subject that has so far been approached through the lens of insecurity. And we need a new law on citizenship that eliminates the appalling difference made between children who are born and grow up in this country, who should always be recognized as Italians.”

The first litmus test to understand if all the talk will finally be followed by action will be the security decrees. “We are ready,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese reiterated Thursday. Since November, a draft amendment to the decrees has been sitting in a drawer at the Viminale, waiting to be discussed in the Council of Ministers. According to the Interior Minister, this might happen as early as next week, although Lamorgese couldn’t make any firm promises: “As soon as there is some time available, given all the outstanding issues.”

No great surprises can be expected from this amendment.

The text prepared by the government amends the second security decree, eliminating the enormous fines (up to €1 million) for NGO vessels and restoring the original amounts (from €10,000 to €50,000), and revising the offense of “insult against a public official.” An amendment to the first security decree is also possible, which would reverse the abrogation of the residence permits for humanitarian reasons. These are all the changes that are expected, and in order to avoid destabilizing tensions, the government will most likely leave it up to Parliament to take bolder action.

The news regarding the Italy-Libya memorandum, however, is less encouraging. After promising to put pressure on Tripoli and call for the closure of the migrant detention centers and the intervention of humanitarian organizations, the government has let three months pass without doing anything. The result is that on Feb. 2, the memorandum as it is will be renewed for another three years. 

Thursday, however, Luigi Di Maio denied that it was too late for any changes: “It’s not true that if we don’t renegotiate by Feb. 2, we can’t do it anymore afterwards,” the Foreign Minister said, adding that “the Foreign Ministry has concluded the preliminary work, and in the coming days, the dialogue with the al-Sarraj government will begin.” 

This interpretation of the terms of the agreement is also shared by the PD Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Marina Sereni, as well as by Zingaretti’s party more generally. Although certainly not by everyone: “We are continuing to be accomplices in an endless humanitarian tragedy: torture, rape, murder, deportation. It looks like nobody gives a damn,” PD Deputy Matteo Orfini protested.

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