On Immigration, Italy’s Government Faces an Unlikely Foe: Local Officials

On Immigration, Italy’s Government Faces an Unlikely Foe: Local Officials
People demonstrate against racism and the government’s immigration policies in Rome, Italy, Dec. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Alessandra Tarantino).

Italy’s populist government scored a big legislative win late last year when it signed a new security decree into law, making life much harder for immigrants, especially asylum-seekers. But mayors and regional governors across the country are refusing to implement many of the law’s provisions, setting up a legal fight with the central government in Rome. In an interview with WPR, Marco Calaresu, a political scientist at the University of Sassari in Italy, and Anna Di Ronco, a sociologist at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, discuss the mounting grassroots resistance to the security decree and explain why the standoff between national and local levels of government is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

World Politics Review: What has been the impact so far of the security decree on immigrants, especially asylum-seekers?

Marco Calaresu and Anna Di Ronco: The security decree is largely a product of the political will of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and leader of the far-right populist League party, which forms a coalition government with the Five Star Movement, another populist political party. The decree has had detrimental effects on social groups that were marginalized to begin with, especially asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants. For example, migrants can no longer obtain two-year humanitarian residence permits, which were previously granted for a variety of reasons, including those related to health and dire poverty. Italy’s Supreme Court has ruled that this will not apply to applications submitted before Oct. 5, 2018, but those who currently hold the status will not be able to renew it.

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