Italy’s Election of Giorgia Meloni would be a Death Sentence for Refugees

Written by Baiden Wright, CFD Research Fellow

Giorgia Meloni is currently poised to assume the position of Italy’s new Prime Minister. With 26% of the vote, Meloni received a higher percentage than any other party participating in the election. 

Meloni is a member of the Brothers of Italy party, known for their extreme right values and ties to early Italian fascism. Aside from their support of policies that would degrade women’s rights and major tax cuts that could worsen Italy’s debt crisis, one of their major platforms centers on a strong anti-migration narrative steeped in xenophobia. Meloni and her peers fear a “Great Replacement” of Italian-born citizens with refugees who seek asylum in Italy and migrants in pursuit of a better life. 

Since 2014, over 500,000 asylum seekers have sought safety in Italy, primarily from migration routes across the Mediterranean Sea. This number constitutes over 40% of all refugees in Europe and includes tens of thousands of children. Many refugees come from Libya and other North African countries, fleeing political violence and inescapable economic fallout. In seeking livable conditions, refugees on the Mediterranean face exploitation, sexual trauma, and the possibility of death. Close to 20,000 people have died or disappeared on this route. 

European pushbacks further exacerbate the dangers faced by migrants. Both Italy and Greece have supported EU efforts to push migrants back to Libya by equipping the Libyan coast guard with the necessary tools to intercept migrants before they enter European waters. Once intercepted, migrants are kept in detention camps with known records of abuse and are left waiting for the hope of resettlement. 

Meloni’s administration threatens to make the already challenging path to safety harder on refugees who want nothing more than basic security. If she follows through on her platform of discouraging migration, Meloni could expedite deportation processes back to states in turmoil, build upon the already damaging pushbacks the EU has adopted or even shut down NGOs that rescue migrants on the open water in addition to the stricter border controls and asylum processes she’s promised.

These policies would put countless asylees at risk of being turned away at the border, with no choice but to return to these dangerous migration routes or face poor conditions in detention camps, neither option guaranteeing safety to those that need it. What is already a humanitarian crisis will turn into a humanitarian disaster characterized by needless deaths. Other European states must open their doors to African refugees as they have so readily welcomed Ukrainian refugees in order to offset the toll that Meloni’s influence will most certainly ensure.