by Alessandra Bocchi
Wednesday, 16
November 2022
Debate
17:15

Giorgia Meloni takes on France over migrant crossings

The new Prime Minister has refused to allow NGO boats to dock
by Alessandra Bocchi
Credit: Getty

Ocean Viking, an NGO boat carrying 234 migrants from Africa, was denied entry into Italian ports on 10th November, forcing the ship to disembark in Toulon, France. The French government granted the ship safe harbour, but not before threatening Italy’s new Right-wing government with “very serious consequences”. French officials said the country would suspend its participation in a redistribution plan to take at least 3,000 migrants from Italy, calling Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni a “big loser” in the process.  

Meloni responded firmly, saying she was “very surprised by the aggressive reaction from the French government, which is incomprehensible and unjustifiable.” She countered the statements from French officials by asking: “Is Italy supposed to be the only port for migrants in the Mediterranean to disembark? This isn’t written in any agreement.” The only common solution Meloni envisions is “the defence of the EU’s borders, blocking departures of migrant boats and opening hotspots. We spent millions of euros to help Turkey: now we need a European solution.” 

Despite the two countries committing to full cooperation on the migrant issue, Malta, Cyprus and Greece all supported Italy in declaring that “NGO boats need to respect the law,” adding, “we are disappointed about the refusal to relocate”. These comments speak to the level of frustration among most Mediterranean countries over the disproportionate number of migrants arriving on their shores. By virtue of their geographical proximity to Africa and the Middle East, they argue that the rest of Europe is showing a lack of solidarity.

Migrants are often persuaded by human traffickers into believing Europe can provide them with a better life. The majority of the migrants are men, according to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), a UN agency. They often come from middle-class African backgrounds, as the journey to reach Europe is an expensive one requiring payment to various traffickers and militias. Arrivals decreased temporarily with the pandemic, but numbers are now on the rise once again.   

Italy’s prominent Right-wing politicians, including Meloni and Lega party leader Matteo Salvini, have for years lamented how NGO boats have incentivised human trafficking, facilitated a slave trade in Libya and increased the number of deaths at sea. Their argument is that, with an end to illegal migration in the Mediterranean, human traffickers would be denied the means to operate and migrants wouldn’t risk the perilous journey. NGO boats, as well as French authorities, have argued the opposite: that rescue operations are vital to save lives.   

But there is data confirming the theory that securing borders saves lives, and it comes from the UN itself: deaths and disappearances recorded in the Mediterranean more than halved when Italy sought to halt mass migration. To be specific, 5,136 deaths and disappearances were recorded in 2016, when Italy was led by the liberal Democratic Party (PD) government under Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, in contrast to 2,337 recorded in 2018, when Salvini became Interior Minister and made halting migration his priority.  

Even the PD government at the time understood the failure of their permissive policy. In 2017, after seeing the party’s polling slide over this issue, then Interior Minister Marco Minniti desperately looked for a solution. He negotiated the memorandum of understanding between Italy and Libya to “fight illegal immigration”, which led to a significant decrease in deaths recorded at sea, 1,1997 fewer in 2017 than the previous year.   

While the well-intentioned altruism of the NGO boats appears to be saving lives at sea in the short-term, it introduces perverse incentives. Ultimately, this will result in far greater loss of life down the line.

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Ben M
Ben M
20 days ago

If only our politicians would read this!
It took me till my 40s to realise that charities/NGOs/Quangos provide a life style for the middle classes. In the case of immigration it also benefits the migrant middle classes too – always to the detriment of the indiginous (whatever colour they may be) population.

Chris W
Chris W
20 days ago
Reply to  Ben M

Everything is about the middle classes. This site is reserved for middle classes. Not many people can think and put their thoughts into words. You are middle class by education, even if you don’t want the label.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris W

There is something in what you say; nevertheless this site, to my knowledge, is not reserved for any particular class. I like Meloni – there, I’ve said it! – and her politics may be beneficial to those who are disadvantaged by the criminal exploitation of immigrants and the communities that risk becoming overwhelmed by its unsustainable continuance.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
17 days ago
Reply to  Chris W

Eh? ‘Not many people can think and put their thoughts into words’

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
20 days ago

The progressive obsession with permitting unregulated immigration is tedious. It is harmful to the host society and often harmful to the immigrants as well. In the US it is estimated that 85% of women and children are raped en route to the Southern border. Many are not really immigrants but are being trafficked for the sex trade. Powerful Mexican cartels are setting up in US cities. All of this is permitted because it makes upper middle class white people who vote Democrat feel good about themselves for being enlightened.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
20 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Can you point us to where this “progressive obsession with permitting unregulated immigration” is documented? Is there something in the Democratic platform about it perhaps? Has Joe Biden said that is a goal of his?
Or is it just something you heard about on Fox News?

Max Price
Max Price
20 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

It’s because Peter is able to process information from the world around him.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
20 days ago
Reply to  Max Price

Or just make stuff up, which seems considerably more likely

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
19 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

The only one here making stuff up is you. Look in a mirror and see the culprit.

Brett H
Brett H
19 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Are you saying, then, that the progressives are not for unregulated immigration?

Max Price
Max Price
19 days ago
Reply to  Brett H

We should be so lucky. If that was the case we could have a consensus on doing something about the issue.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
20 days ago

Immigration is one of the three crown jewels of neoliberalism. Free flow of goods, free flow of money, free flow of people. Those three things underpin and enable the multinational oligarchs and they will fight bitterly to the very end using every means they have, and every friendly government they can influence to preserve them. Meloni and others like her have a long hard slog ahead of them.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
20 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Meloni and her friends will be gone within a year. A footnote in history, A pub quiz question.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Sound like an EU mantra!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
19 days ago

That’s exactly what it is. Nothing embodies globalist optimism and policy quite as well as the EU, and nothing will probably resist our new multipolar reality longer. Fifty or so years from now, the collapse of the EU will probably be the final nail in the coffin of globalism.

Last edited 19 days ago by Steve Jolly
Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
19 days ago

Just one more example of the old aphorism that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. They should start arresting NGO immigration organizers, and start charging them with ‘accessory to manslaughter’, citing the near-doubling of deaths among those making the crossing.
Side observation: I used to drive the (heavily female) progressive circles at my university berserk by offering (fake) praise for the rise in Muslim immigration. They all thought I’d said something acceptable to their mindset – until I added ‘Yes, we need more people who think women should be property!’ (Not that I really think that, but it was just too good a line to pass up.) But it comes to mind now, with the observation that the “majority of the migrants are men”. Where do the rescue enthusiasts think are going to be the societal results of that imbalance?

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
19 days ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

Yes that’s a classic way to stir progs.
Person x: “Women must obey their husbands, and homosexuals should be executed.”
Progressive female: “What an asshole! You must be a Republican.”
Person x: “No, I’m a Muslim.”
Progressive female: “Oh I’m so sorry! I hope you don’t think I’m Islamophobic!”

Last edited 19 days ago by Ludwig van Earwig
Peter Francis
Peter Francis
19 days ago

Yet another example: we Western liberals all cheer the courageous Iranians for challenging Islamic dress codes for women and we all criticised Boris Johnson for challenging Islamic dress codes for women.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
19 days ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

If the majority of immigrants were attractive single women they would put a stop to it by the end of the week

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

I’m truly baffled by the whole immigration issue. It’s a math problem. You allow as many immigrants as needed for the economy – no more, no less. Allowing unregulated migration can hurt the economy, which ultimately hurts future immigrants by reducing opportunity. You can still allow for humanitarian immigration, but the number crunchers should determine overall levels. Immigration should never be influenced by outside organizations like NGOs.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
19 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Nonsense I am afraid.
Business will make the case for immigration to keep the wage costs down and politicians will do so because it chimes with their world view.
Any material level of immigration is detrimental to the native population for the same reason.
Ultimately it is detrimental to the country as an entity since immigration allows the perpetuation of a low wage economy, reduces the need for innovation and investment an improved productivity and also removes the need to make the most of the native population not only in terms of skills but also in terms of facilitating large sections of the native population to languish on benefits.
This is all before you take into account the damaged done to the social fabric and cohesion of the country.
The only ones to ultimately benefit from immigration are our elites who for very many years have had no allegiance to this country and who are increasingly international in constitution

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
19 days ago

I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the number of immigrants who have never worked an hour in their new countries and those who have only received benefits yet do not fit the description of having fled persecution? Those who said immigration was a net benefit to Britain were very selective in their calculation ignoring many of the benefits paid out such as child support, pensions etc to those who had never paid a penny in. Racist? Nope just honest!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
19 days ago

Yeah it was noticeable when the supply of cheap Eastern European labour to U.K. farms was reduced after Brexit that the reports about farmers introducing automated methods increased hugely.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

The populations of the west are declining and aging. Without immigration, economic decline is inevitable. This isn’t rocket surgery.

Last edited 19 days ago by clearmedia
Matt M
Matt M
19 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It is a maths problem but the calculation is how many extra people can the inelastic resources of a country cope with? You can only build so many houses, hospitals, roads etc or recruit and train so many doctors, police etc.
Businesses will always want cheap labour but we should allow them to have it if the result is just higher house prices, longer waiting lists or higher public deficits.

Neil Anthony
Neil Anthony
19 days ago

Nowdays, the acronym NGO stands for :- Upto No-Good-Organization. They are all sponspored by the liberal world order and have their own agenda which has nothing to do with compassionate care for anyone.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
19 days ago

The parallels to the UKs current problems with migrants crossing the English Channel is striking.
Unfortunately we can’t refuse to allow the Life Boats to land in the UK but the arguments are identical.
And possibly our problems with France mirror those of Italy, at least in some respects.

pete wright
pete wright
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

We can refuse them by to land but must be careful not to break international maritime law ( esp if they seem in danger). What’s needed is political will to sort it out and not kick the can down the road but housing people in hotels at taxpayers expense, that’s hardly going to reduce numbers is it?

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Oh yes we can & easily too. Those boats started out in France &, unless you honestly believe that France is a dangerous country, that is where they should be towed back to.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
19 days ago

Sadly, they can’t be towed back to France without French permission. And if it was tried, the migrants would just jump overboard. What do you do then, let them drown?
I’m afraid the solution isn’t as simple as you suppose.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
19 days ago

You’d only have to let a few drown before the rest decided it wasn’t worth it. Letting a few idiots get drown themselves in a highly public spectacle would probably save more lives in the long run. Alas, our society has become too soft and insulated from reality to allow such things.

Last edited 19 days ago by Steve Jolly
MICHAEL 0
MICHAEL 0
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

we have many videos of people drowning on the U.S. border…it doesn’t seem to slow down the immigration…do they have TVs?

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
19 days ago

“French permission”? Did they have UK permission to go the other way?
Not that I’m saying there’s an easy answer – you’re 100% right that there isn’t a simple one – or, at least, an easy, painless one. (Executing 100% of illegal immigrants, no appeal allowed, would probably substantially cut the numbers, once the word got around. Not that I’m seriously suggesting that – but it is simple.)

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
19 days ago

Hallelujah someone has seen the light at last. I hope others do the same SOON!

MICHAEL 0
MICHAEL 0
17 days ago

Why don’t they just follow the U.S.? we let them through the border by the millions, pronounce them illegal, give them a future court date, and bus them to a major city where they get food and fresh clothing. (and they get registered to vote) Why don’t more countries copy this? (because it’s dumb?)