Italy’s Pemier Giuseppe Conte has threatened to withhold its 20 billion euro contribution to the EU budget over a group of migrants who are attempting to enter Italy illegally.
There are 150 adults left aboard the Coast Guard ship Diciotti, which is currently at Catania, Italy. After initially balking, the Italian government allowed 27 children to disembark; the others have been barred from leaving. In response, members of the trapped migrant group have begun a hunger strike.
Conte, chosen as leader by the two dominant political factions in Italy, is taking a hardline stance against illegal immigration at the direction of his interior minister, Matteo Salvini. This stance has been challenged repeatedly since the election of the new government, as the EU demands compliance with the union laws.
Salvini is currently being threatened with arrest if he fails to comply with EU directives.
It is a problem of communities, now; the Southernmost nations in the EU are seeing the greatest influx of refugees, at levels which are disruptive to daily lives of the citizenry. The concerns about a sudden population increase are exacerbated by the presence of terrorists and criminals among the refugees. In the Northern nations of the EU, the number of refugees, while still considerable, is not as disruptive. This has triggered internal conflicts between the nations as they fundamentally disagree on the severity of the migration crisis, even as they often agree on the problems facing the migrants should they remain in their war-torn native lands.
Italy has, to date, been attempting to push back on the EU within the existing legal constraints. A particular point of contention has been the Dublin Regulation, which requires migrants to be processed by the country in which they originally arrive. Italy has simply been delaying the processing and keeping the arrivals incarcerated. There are currently more than 160,000 people jailed in Italy while awaiting processing, and the number grows daily.
Meanwhile, Italy is not the only country that is pushing back against EU rules. The Schengen Area agreement requires EU nations to allow migrants free travel throughout the EU member nations. Using the loophole of “security concerns”, France, Austria and other nations have disallowed large numbers of refugees from entering their countries from Italy, after Italy has processed them.
Moreover, an attempt in 2015 to organize transition points in Italy and Greece to member nations such as Poland and Hungary have failed, as those nations – already dealing with millions of border crossers – have refused EU directives.
Italy and Greece are the default landing point for much of the migration problem, and Italians are pushing back. To their credit, the Italians are offering to help finance refugee cities within North African countries, but as yet few seem interested in taking them up on the offer.
The EU is facing a crisis as the population of multiple small nations attempts to resettle in its member nations. The current policy, attempting to aid the millions of people who are fleeing likely death from civil wars in Africa, is being abused by millions more who are seeking a better life for themselves and thousands who are ready to exploit the fertile ground for crime and terrorism.
This combination has caused a crisis which may eventually shatter the EU, completely independent of Brexit. Italy’s stance now risks being a trigger for such an event, as neither it nor Brussels seems to have any interest in backing down.