Migrants shot at in Italian election campaign

In the Italian city of Macerata a man fired 30 shots at migrants on Saturday, leaving six African immigrants wounded, one of them seriously. Upon his arrest the shooter, a supporter of the right-wing extremist Lega Nord, made the Nazi salute. The incident has put a populist take on migration policy at the centre of the election campaign, commentators observe with concern and see the EU as partly responsible.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Competing populists

After the Macerata shootings Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi has described migrants as a "social bomb" and promised mass deportations. He's trying to beat the far right on their own terrain, La Repubblica fears:

“Not only has the Forza Italia boss not distanced himself from the Lega Nord leader [Salvini]; on the contrary, he quickly came up with a proposal to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants. That means that 'moderate' Berlusconi fears the 'extremist' Salvini. ... The Lega could now secure a paradoxical advantage from the deep wounds that events like that in Macerata inflict on the social fabric.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

EU leaving the South in the lurch

The EU also bears responsibility for the escalating debate over migrants and refugees in the Italian election campaign, De Volkskrant notes:

“There is little chance that most of the illegal immigrants can be expelled. As soon as they're registered after their arrival they're free to go where they please, and come up against the closed borders of France, Austria and Switzerland. The result is that the burden of migration lies squarely on Italy's shoulders. So Brussels bears partial blame for the revival of the xenophobic right in Italy. As they did with Greece, the European member states refused their help and let Italy muddle through its migration problems on its own. ... And so for the time being Europe's dithering in the migration crisis will continue to influence election results.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Dangerous lack of a political centre

The Frankfurter Rundschau sees the topic of migration now firmly established in the Italian election campaign:

“The xenophobic Lega is setting the tone for the other parties on refugee and migration policy. When it was in government the last time with Silvio Berlusconi's party, the coalition's policies bore the signature of the junior partner - particularly in this area. It's not unlikely that after the parliamentary elections at the start of March the centre-right alliance will once again form the government. Italy, whose large established parties fell apart far earlier than in other Western European countries, shows just how much power xenophobic parties can wield when they're given the chance and the political centre is absent. They're a danger for democracy.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Berlusconi unlikely to distance himself

The Tages-Anzeiger also warns that Lega Nord and its far-right leader participating in government would be bad news:

“Not long ago Salvini said he would kick half a million migrants out of the country if he came to power. Immediately! Italy for the Italians! It's like listening to Marine Le Pen. But Matteo Salvini could indeed rise to power, together with his partners Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni [of the national conservative Fratelli d’Italia party]. The right-wing election alliance is ahead in the polls and could win a narrow majority in parliament. Berlusconi is known not to like Salvini, either personally or politically. The alliance is purely the result of vote calculations. It's time Berlusconi distanced himself from the fearmonger. As loudly as possible and before the elections. But it's not very likely that he will.”

Delo (SI) /

Italy feels neglected by Europe

As the attack occurred so close to the elections all the parties will try to exploit it, Delo fears:

“Because there is no party that is not populist right now. Some observers fear that this attack carried out in front of the monument to fallen soldiers will help the Lega Nord - which is compared with Marine Le Pen's party in France at the European level - succeed. Now that an ever larger part of the population is suffering deprivation Italy is thinking back to its times of glory. The events in Macerata are all the more worrying against the background of the economic crisis and the mass arrival of people from Africa. For Italy feels abandoned, neglected and undervalued by Europe.”

Il Giornale (IT) /

A reaction to imported criminality

Alessandro Sallusti, editor-in-chief of the daily Il Giornale which belongs to the Berlusconi group, condemns the attack but also offers an explanation:

“The voices that have been growing louder for years in our cities were ignored. Desperate complaints about imported criminality that was going unpunished. This is what has rocked Macerata in recent days. A Nigerian migrant with a criminal record, a drug dealer who should have been deported long ago, killed a young woman and dismembered her corpse. If the left now claims that [the attacker] Luca Traini is proof that we have become a racist country then it must also concede that the Nigerian of Macerata who chopped up Pamela is proof that migration is a criminal phenomenon that must be stopped.”