Italy is going through important and agitated days with the government coalition issuing two crucial decrees concerning immigration and economy.
With these provisions, the government formed by the far-right League and the populist Five Stars Movement (M5S) has reaffirmed its nationalist and xenophobic nature. Especially in the case of the immigration decree, the government is indulging the drift towards racism in the country.
On September 24, the Italian Council of Ministers approved a legislative decree concerning security and immigration. The “security decree”, conceived by League leader and interior minister Matteo Salvini, provides for highly restrictive measures for immigrants and asylum seekers. It is the latest tool in the ongoing effort to limit their presence on Italian soil.
When the decree enters into force, residence permits for humanitarian reasons will be abolished. Humanitarian protection for refugees will no longer be granted.
Moreover, the decree includes the possibility of revoking the status of refugees and international protection for those who commit certain crimes or resist arrest.
In this way, the reception system will be dismantled. It will be made available only for the very few who have refugee status and for unaccompanied minors. At the same time, the decree will reinforce and speed up procedures to repatriate “irregular” immigrants and those who cannot access refugee status.
The security decree is also aimed at fighting the “terrorism threat” through stricter police surveillance.
Funds for police will also be increased to “improve urban security”. In cities of more than 100,000 people, police will be able to use Tasers to combat local crime. Moreover, Salvini is also making it easier for private citizens to buy arms.
Finally, to fight the mafia, confiscated properties of criminal organisations will be either used for social housing or (more likely) sold to private citizens.
Racism becomes law
In fact, the “security and immigration decree” is a fully-fledged discrimination act based on racism and nationalism, as noted by radical trade unionist Aboubakar Soumahoro. “With the security decree,” said Soumahoro, “racism becomes law, painting foreigners and refugees as public enemies, with no equality before the law.”
Indeed, by denying humanitarian protection, Salvini’s decree is an outrageous and unprecedented attack on basic human rights. It also violates both international agreements on asylum seekers and the Italian Constitution.
Moreover, revoking humanitarian protection will lead to an increase in the exploitation of immigrant labour as well as illegal immigration. It is well known that immigrants are the main victims of unfair and unregulated working conditions. Salvini’s decree will in fact authorise employers and organised crime to further exploit their labour and treat them as slaves.
In this sense, the decree indulges a distorted picture of reality, according to which immigration and national security are directly linked. However, data shows that crime is down 10% compared to past years and Italy faces no “terrorism emergency”.
On the contrary, it is racist attacks that have risen worryingly since the new government took office. All the terrorist incidents in Italy in the past couple of years have been committed by far-right groups, not foreigners.
The “security and immigration decree” is merely xenophobic propaganda that serves to strengthen Salvini’s leading role within the government. By keeping intolerance and xenophobia alive among Italians, Salvini intends to consolidate his dominant position in the government and fight by any means anyone who tries to oppose his agenda.
As an example, police recently arrested Domenico Lucano, mayor of the southern Italian village of Riace, accusing him of facilitating illegal immigration. In truth, Riace is a role model for good reception and effective integration of immigrants and refugees — serving to disprove Salvini’s propaganda.
Legalising intolerance and jailing those who oppose such injustice is the action of fascists.
Mafia expert Don Luigi Ciotti has also stated that the “security decree” will actually help the mafia, as they will be able to legally buy back their own seized properties.
Economic and financial document
The other important development about the Italian government is the “economic and financial document”, approved by the Council of Ministers on September 25.
Among other things, the document provides for an economic manoeuvre aimed at introducing both a “citizenship income” (one of the M5S agenda’s key points) and a flat tax for businesses (fiercely advocated by the League).
To finance this, the government intends to raise Italy’s public debt, contrary to recommendations of the European Union and the European Central Bank.
What the M5S calls a citizenship income is nothing but an unemployment benefit. Moreover, despite the M5S leader Luigi Di Maio saying that 6.5 million people will receive the income, a more realistic estimate suggests the number of beneficiaries will be much less.
The so-called “flat tax” is a fully-fledged business tax cut with the introduction of three different rates. Indeed, a proper flat tax would be against the Italian Constitution, which includes a section on progressive taxation.
This manoeuvre will go against the neoliberal diktats of the EU which, in recent years, has resulted in an economic downturn and rising unemployment and job insecurity.
However, it must be said that the strong risk is that this manoeuvre will exclusively benefit the rich. That is, while it is certain that businesses and entrepreneurs will be entitled to a significant tax cut, it is also possible that those who are unemployed and/or below the poverty line will not be able to improve their life and working conditions.
The government’s hope is that cutting taxes for employers will encourage them to give work to more people. But there is no evidence to support this idea. In reality, employers are more likely to simply pocket the savings themselves.
A better way to finance the economic manoeuvre would be to radically cut military expenses, which in 2018 amount to €25 billion. But the document does not mention military expenses at all.
The measures in this document are unlikely to solve Italy’s real and urgent problems.
On September 30, more than 25,000 people took to the streets of Milan for a huge anti-racist and anti-fascist rally. It was organised by the main left-wing parties, collectives and unions, together with the National Partisans Association (ANPI) and LGBTQI groups.
The aim of the rally was to protest Salvini’s xenophobic agenda and defend civil and human rights. Indeed, the real threat facing Italy is not immigrants or other minorities, but mafia and fascism.
Immigrants are not “stealing the jobs of Italians”, rather it is labour exploitation and the mafia that are impoverishing Italian people. Immigrants are not a threat to security, but fascists and their violent methods are.
The Milan rally shows that a big part of Italy rejects racism and fascism, embracing international solidarity and tolerance in the name of the values of the resistance against fascism. This must be the common ground for Italy’s progressive and radical left to create a viable alternative to the reactionary and nationalist government’s agenda.