Italian elections are scheduled for March 4, 2018, with the anti-establishment Democratic Party, the center-right Forza Italia and the Five Star Movement (M5S) contending to form the next government.
Immigration has become a pressing issue among many members of the European Union, and Italy is no exception, with the upcoming elections reinforcing the need to address the matter.
While Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is banned from running for office after being convicted of tax fraud, his party, Forza Italia, has entered a coalition with the Northern League and the Brothers of Italy in the elections, which could provide him a seat at the table.
Berlusconi, for whom the elections might signify a tremendous political comeback, has drawn public attention to the problem of the huge migration influx into the country, calling it a “social bomb ready to explode in Italy.”
“Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a left-wing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” said Berlusconi, pledging to deport illegal migrants. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.”
The M5S, a party which represents the spirit of protest against Italy’s political establishment, has supported Berlusconi’s stance, with its leader Luigi Di Maio calling for deportations and putting “Italians First.”
The nearer the election gets, the tougher the rhetoric becomes, although some officials believe, namely Salvatore Martello, the mayor of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, a hotspot for migrant arrivals, that these are mere words.
“When election time comes around, no one comes to Lampedusa,” he said, referring to the candidates. “We’re not afraid of immigrants as such, and by now arrivals are slowing down. Nevertheless, the frontrunners seem to find it inconvenient to come here during the campaign.”