Migration opens the door to Italy’s populists
Early on the morning of July 14, the Vos Prudence, a ship run by Médecins Sans Frontières, docked in the southern Italian city of Salerno, carrying 934 people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea near war-torn Libya. As she stepped on to European soil, one Nigerian woman began chanting a prayer, sparking applause in the port. Most of the survivors were quickly dispatched to reception centres across the country, with just 300 remaining in the region.
But even this relatively small group was enough to trigger the ire of Mariano Falcone, a local rightwing politician who has vowed to chain himself to the gates of the port in protest at the next disembarkation of migrants in his city.
“We cannot take on the burden of all these desperate people, Italy has its own problems,” he says sitting in a café along Salerno’s seafront. Mr Falcone has a dark view of migration to Italy. He speaks of “ethnic substitution”, “attempted Islamisation”, and the likelihood of “ferocious social clashes” between poor Italians and the growing immigrant population. He feels his side, the Eurosceptic Northern League led by Matteo Salvini — which has risen to third place in national polls — is winning the argument.