Italians are still new to the idea they are no longer living in a country of just emigrants but also of immigrants. Italy is both a country of recent mass emigration and, now, of considerable immigration. This switch in migration status was rather sudden and found the country quite unprepared in legal, policy and psychological terms. Italy has been slow to apply lessons from its own experience of emigration to the potential benefit of its recently settled immigrant people who suffer multiple forms of social exclusion and have been subject to mounting acts of harassment and racism. Such a change may appear to threaten the Italian identity, but again a cooperative approach can allow for cultural growth. Yet politically, socially, and economically such change has not only been slow to take place but may have actually gone in reverse, as evidence shows that acceptance of immigrants and immigrant culture in Italy has seemed to decline over the years.
A series of hardline measures drafted by Matteo Salvini the far-right interior minister, will abolish key forms of protection for migrants and make it easier for them to be deported. The decree will also suspend the refugee application process of those who are considered “socially dangerous” or who have been convicted of a crime. The plans include abolishing humanitarian protection, a form of protection for those not eligible for refugee status but who for various reason cannot be sent home, and replacing it with a special permits system that will limit eligibility to people such as victims of a natural disaster or those with a serious illness.
The measures could have a dramatic impact on the lives of tens of thousands already in the country. The ultimate aim is to have no refugees at all in Italy through a combination of efforts: closure of seaports, criminalising migrant rescue NGOs, enhancing collaboration with the coastguard and now, with this decree, they target those who are already in Italy, or who may come in future and not get any kind of protection.