News Analysis: Italy migrant crisis could start to have impact on political landscape with elections approaching, analysts say

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-21 00:26:38|Editor: yan
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by Eric J. Lyman

ROME, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The growing European migrant crisis is creating a strain in Italy, the main landing point for new arrivals this year, may also help bolster the chances for the country's two main euro-skeptic, anti-establishment political parties in the next national elections, analysts say.

In the first half of this year, more than 85,000 migrants have arrived on Italian territory, a fifth more than over the same six-month period in 2016. Asylum requests are up by 25 percent. And so far, commitments from last year to help spread the financial burden of receiving and processing among European states has failed to produce meaningful financial help.

In the latest attempt to gain leverage in European Union negotiations about the problem, Italy says it may start to issue thousands of visas to allow new arrivals to travel to other parts of Europe in hope that possibility may convince wealthier northern European to help underwrite costs.

"We aren't making a threat," Italian Senator Luigi Manconi said in a televised interview. "We are trying to persuade other countries to do their part."

Regardless of how that plays out, analysts told Xinhua, the waves of arrivals may be changing the electoral math in a country set to go to the polls either late this year or early in 2018.

"The worse the migrant problem gets in Italy, the more it will hurt the mainstream, pro-European political parties and the more it will help bolster the chances of parties that want to halt migration and that are critical of the European Union," Raffaelle Marchetti, a professor of international relations in Rome's LUISS University, said in an interview.

Marchetti specifically mentioned the Five-Star Movement, the anti-establishment party founded by comedian and activist Beppe Grillo, and the separatist Northern League as the parties most likely to benefit from an increase in anti-migrant sentiment in Italy.

"I doubt the migrant issue alone will be enough to sway the election, but it will no doubt be one of the factors that plays a role," Marchetti said. "It depends how much these parties can make it part of the political narrative as the vota approaches."

Francesca Curi, a law professor at the University of Bologna, said it is important that Italy not come up with a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis. Some of the extreme reactions some people have are to call for the ports to be closed off (to migrants) or for the borders to be sealed," Curi told Xinhua. "It would be a mistake to make a short-sighted decision."

She said a better strategy was to help resolve the violence or political instability that makes migrants willing to flee their home countries, and that, for migrants who do arrive in Europe, for states to work together to give them as many opportunities as possible. "It's a complex problem, and it would be irresponsible to look only for simple solutions no matter how appealing," she said.