Published on 9 Jun 2015 Sections ,

Migrant crisis: Italy’s north-south divide over immigration

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi could offer incentives to northern cities who accept more migrants in an attempt to quell an anti-immigration row brewing between the north and south.

The migrant crisis has become one of the top priorities for the Italian government, with Italy struggling to handle the tens of thousands of mainly African and Syrian migrants who have arrived on its southern shores since the beginning of the year.

Matteo Renzi
is now facing repeated attacks by the opposition right wing Northern League party as he attempts to introduce national quotas designed to cut the burden on the southern regions where most migrants arrive.

The proposals have been met with opposition by leaders of Lombardy, Liguria and Veneto regions who warn they cannot accept more migrants.

Northern League

Roberto Maroni, the Northern League governor of the prosperous Lombardy region warned: “Do not bring more migrants to Lombardy. We will cut money to the town halls who welcome them.”

Giovanni Toti, the newly-elected president of Liguria, added: “I have already said it: we will not receive any more migrants.” Luca Zaia, the right-wing president of Veneto, said the region that includes Venice was: “Like a bomb ready to go off. The social tensions are absolutely crazy.”

Mr Renzi however has promised to reward cities financially if they accept the quotas. He said: “We’re not going to solve our problems by shouting more loudly but by fixing the problems created by those who are shouting loudly now.”

The political row could escalate further after Northern League leader Matteo Salvini (above) backed the Lombardy governor’s stance: “We will occupy local authority offices if the quotas are introduced. If Renzi and [interior minister] Alfano think the north will allow migrants to stay, they are mistaken.”

Mr Angelino Alfano later responded: “Salvini occupies local authority offices, we occupy ourselves with the problems. His attitude is of unbearable hatred of the south.”

EU quotas

Mr Renzi is also warning the EU it has to do more to deal with the migrant crisis.

The European Commission last week proposed an emergency plan to take 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, two Mediterranean states where most migrants first arrive, and relocate them in other European Union countries.

Mr Renzi (above) said the total of 24,000 refugees currently in Italy who would be moved under the plan was “insufficient” and further work was needed at the next European summit on June 25-26.

“We need to recognize that the situation as it is isn’t working. We’ve set ourselves a timetable up to the next European Council meeting and we’ll try to get results,” Mr Renzi said.

Some EU countries – including the UK – however remain resistant to the plans and are reluctant to accept any more migrants.