Posted on September 3, 2023

How Italy’s Far-Right Leader Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Migration

Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico, August 30, 2023

Before becoming Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni was one of the most strident voices on migration in the European Union. As an opposition politician, she warned darkly of efforts to substitute native Italians with ethnic minorities and promised to put in place a naval blockade to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

During her time in office, she has taken a markedly different tack — presiding over a sharp spike in irregular arrivals and introducing legislation that could see as many as 1.5 million new migrants arrive through legal channels.


Meloni’s legal migration decree estimates Italy needs 833,000 new migrants over the next three years to fill in the gap in its labor force. It opens the door to 452,000 workers over the same period to fill seasonal jobs in sectors like agriculture and tourism as well as long-term positions like plumbers, electricians, care workers and mechanics.

“This is a super pragmatic behavior,” said Matteo Villa, a migration expert at the ISPI think tank in Italy. “There has been a change in narrative.”

Given Italy’s rules on family reunification, which allow residents to bring in relatives, “it’s easy to predict that over something like 10 years, these figures will triple,” bringing in about 1.5 million migrants, said Maurizio Ambrosini, a professor of sociology and an expert on migration at Milan’s university.

Meloni government’s, he added, “has been pushed to implement a more realistic policy” by the entrepreneurial class that makes up an important part of its support.

Nicola Procaccini, an MEP close to Meloni who is also the co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, to which Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party belongs, denied any change of line: “{snip} There is no such thing as a nation that can do without a moderate amount of migration but it must be little, sustainable and governed.”


Meloni’s about-turn hasn’t gone unnoticed by her allies on the right, especially in the far-right League Party that’s part of her coalition government.

“Where did the Prime Minister Meloni who was saying ‘naval blockade’ go?” asked Attilio Lucia, a member of the League and the deputy mayor of Lampedusa, the tiny island where most migrants arrive. “I hoped….now that we finally have a right-wing government the situation would change … but the right is getting worse than the left.”