Italy’s right wing government threatens funding cuts for refugee co-ops

Pledges from the populist coalition are a worry for co-ops which have been working with refugees to help them integrate

Italy’s new government could lower the financial support for social co-ops that help refugees integrate.

The governing coalition between two populist parties, Lega and the Five Star Movement (M5S), is also looking to secure an overhaul of the Dublin Regulation, which requires refugees to claim asylum in first EU country where they set foot. Around 64% of refugees crossing the Mediterranean arrived in Italy last year, with 400,000 applying for asylum here over the past four years.

Italy’s newly appointed prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said in a speech addressing the senate on 5 June that he wanted “a fair distribution of responsibilities and to achieve an automatic system of compulsory distribution of asylum seekers”.

Speaking at a rally in the North of Italy, deputy prime minister, interior minister and leader of Italy’s far right League, Matteo Salvini, pledged to speed up deportations, make it harder for vessels to bring refugees to Italian shores, and press for change to the Dublin Regulation.

Related: How co-ops have been helping refugees

He wants an Australian-type of immigration based on points and qualifications and argues that larger numbers are harder to integrate.

The country has seen a 75% fall in arrivals since the summer of 2017 following a controversial agreement between Italy and Libya to put in place measures to stop refugees and migrants from travelling to Europe.

The former government produced a plan to deal with the crisis back in 2017, allocating a budget of €4.2bn, 18% for rescues at sea, 13% for health care, and 65% for migrant reception centres, which host some 170,000 people.

The centres are run by co-operatives or NGOs, which can receive between €25-€35 per day for each person they provide with lodging, clothes and other services, such as legal aid, psychological support or language classes.

Mr Salvini said he aimed to lower the amount allocated to social co-operatives working to integrate refugees. These social co-ops provide services to 18,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants across 220 welcome centres and 170 housing structures. A shift in government policy could endanger the existence of the co-ops and the services they provide.

In this article

Join the Conversation