Italy’s economy is in shambles. For the third time in a decade, the Italian economy has hit a recession, seeing negative growth in the last quarter. Italy’s unemployment rate stands at 10.5%, one of the highest among developed European countries. Its youth unemployment rate is similarly abysmal, standing at 33%. To some, the real source of outrage in Italy isn’t its shoddy economic outlook, it is that the government has cut funding to processing centers for refugees.
Italy takes in more asylees than any other European nation. Despite this fact, roughly three quarters of all asylum applicants are ultimately rejected. Due to obligations under international law, Italy is still forced to house and take in these migrants while their asylum applications are being processed. Citing the extremely high rejection rate for migrants attempting to gain asylum in Italy and other European countries, the new Italian government has said that it is pointless to spend excessive funds on housing the applicants.
The Italian government and various NGO’s have also pointed out that a litany of unsavory actors are taking advantage of the refugee crisis for personal gain. Chief among these unsavory actors is the Italian mafia. It has been reported that the Italian mafia runs some of these refugee reception centers, meaning that the mafia is being subsidized by the italian government. The mafia also reportedly recruits among migrants in processing to be drug mules and runs protection rackets in the centers. One Italian politician stated that to the mafia, “migrants are now worth more than narcotics”.
The number of refugees coming to Europe has been on a downward trend since 2016, when it was at nearly 400,000 arrivals. In 2018, Europe saw about 144,000 arrivals. The mass inflow of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East sparked a populist backlash throughout the continent. In the recent French elections, right wing populist Marine Le Pen and her National Front party got a 2nd place finish, the best they have performed in recent history. Many speculate that the refugee crisis was the catalyst for Brexit in 2016. Germany saw the ascendance of their own right wing populist party (AfD, the Alternative for Germany), which prompted long time Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down after this term.