On the 21st of July 2022, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi returned to the Quirinale for his resignation only a year and a half since he became premier. Before this, on the 20th of July, Draghi presented himself to the Senate to ask for proof of trust in his government. After 12 hours of debate in the Chamber, Forza Italia and the Lega, two among many Italian political parties, decided not to participate in the ballot, along with the 5 Star Movement. As a result, only 95 senators voted in favour of the government, sealing Draghi’s fate. Following Draghi’s downfall, the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella signed the decree for the dissolution of the Chambers, triggering new elections within 70 days as indicated in the Constitution. The date confirmed by the Council of Ministers is the 25th of September.
Italy’s many political parties are now scrambling to form coalitions, gain as many votes as possible and draw up their electoral programs. A distinctive feature of these electoral manifestos is their contrasting view on the massive immigration in Italy. The right and the center-right lash out against the continuous landings of boats and migrants in Lampedusa. Potential premier Giorgia Meloni’s views on immigration are worth noting. Meloni, champion of right-wing political parties, has stated numerous times that stopping boats transporting thousands of migrants is the only way to preserve the identities of Italy and Italians. She also believes only local Italians should be able to avail the few job opportunities on offer, and that fortifying Italy’s borders is extremely important. The left favours a more “humanitarian” approach, stating that the nation must help citizens of countries ravaged by war, famine and drought. Clearly, both ends of the political spectrum are using migrants as a weapon to win votes and weaken the opposition.
Italian politicians have weaponized migrants in their political campaigns since the early 2000s, failing to see them as human beings with separate identities, stories, ambitions, fears and dreams. Why is that? There is not a single answer to such a complicated question. For years the Italian government has used migrants as the scapegoat for many of the country’s problems, such as the absence of jobs, high criminality, or the economic crisis. Many intellectuals, civilians and authorities believe that the intake of migrants is too high and that, consequently, migrants are the main reason for job loss, as the “Coffee Break-LAVORO” report published in 2019. This report published by the Leone Moressa Foundation, investigated why Italians believe migrants are stealing jobs.
However, the main reason why Italian politicians and citizens fail to see migrants as human beings is their government’s incessant propagation of hate-mongering propaganda. For a long time, Italian political parties have based their electoral programs and propaganda on people, not facts. “Killed by drunk Moroccan immigrant,” “run over by Nigerian migrant without a license,” and “robbed by Lebanese illegal immigrant” are just a few of the most recent Italian newspaper headlines, from the Sole 24 Ore to Il Giorno, that proves how much attention is given to the individuals and not the facts. Newspapers and politicians use ethnically specific descriptors such as Nigerian, Moroccan and Lebanese negatively and provocatively, fueling social hatred towards migrants by erasing or reducing an individual’s entire identity to the pernicious stereotype of the “migrant-criminal.” Instead of paying attention to issues such as the causes of illegal immigration and trying to find a way to safely control it, Italian politicians have always tarred and condemned migrants without acknowledging their humanity.
Illicit and uncontrolled immigration flow is a complex problem in Italy, but it is possible to control and contain it by following different strategies; it is also essential to fight the hate propaganda so frequently used in Italian communication media and to re-establish more human rhetoric when talking about migrants. One way to do that is to reform the Italian media and communication channels. As stated earlier, many newspapers, as well as politicians such as Giorgia Meloni, hone in on the “bad side” of immigration, concentrating on crime news and underlining with particular attention the immigrant dimension of the person who committed the crime. It is necessary to include good information on immigration by committing to new journalistic ethics: journalists, politicians and media need to avoid utilizing nationality labels when it is only used to fearmonger.
It is important for the media to stop associating stereotyping with the description of a fact. It is also crucial to give a voice to the stakeholders – the migrants themselves, by including their points of view in the many political debates and articles on immigration, promoting close collaboration between Italian journalists and immigrants for a more accurate representation of foreign communities in the country. It is impossible to think that everyone, especially regarding political parties of opposite sides, will have the same thoughts on a complex issue such as immigration. Yet these communication reforms could change the way immigration and migrants are portrayed in the country, especially from a political point of view. If media and politicians adopted a more accurate, objective and fairer way of talking about the immigration issue, shifting their attention to the facts, the crimes, rather than accusing the individual, the migrant, it would be possible to break away from the migrant-criminal dichotomy and restore a human dimension to the individual.
As it is possible to observe from the electoral campaign for the next elections, the Italian political parties on all sides are unable to see immigrants as human beings with their own complexities. As seen in previous years, Italian politicians and media represent the immigrant subjectively and not very accurately, without considering the facts. It is necessary to apply reforms to communication channels to break away from the migrant-criminal dichotomy. Only through more accurate and objective reporting, which does not spread racism or bigotry in Italy’s media discourse, will it be possible to restore a degree of humanity to migrants.