Two weeks after Italy reacted with anger to Austria’s deployment of troops and armored vehicles to the border between the two nations, while reactivating border controls at the Brenner Pass over concerns that Italy will be unable to handle the roughly 85,000 migrants and refugees who have entered the country so far in 2017, the Italian government has threatened to retaliate in way that assures an imminent migrant crisis as well as an escalation of tensions between the two EU nations.
According to The Times, an Italian minister and a senator have threatened to issue temporary EU visas to thousands of migrants in an effort to “resolve” Italy’s escalating migrant and refugee crisis, which would then allow the refugees to travel north. The move, which has been described as a ‘nuclear option,’ would allow the nearly 200,000 migrants currently stranded in Italy, to travel across Europe using a Brussels directive loophole.
Paolo Gentiloni, the prime minister, is livid that the rest of Europe has refused to take its fair share of migrants and that they have closed ports to rescue ships as the number of refugees attempting the treacherous crossing from Libya to the Continent has surged.
Italy previously called on its EU neighbors to help with the escalating humanitarian crisis but it has been disappointed by their complete lack of action. The face off prompted former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to shock the European liberal establishment, when last Friday he released excerpts from a new book in which he said that “we need to free ourselves from a sense of guilt. We do not have the moral duty to welcome into Italy people who are worse off than ourselves” adding that “we need to escape from our ‘do gooder’ mentality.”
Migrants disembark from the Medecins Sans Frontiers ship Vos Prudence after
being rescued at sea, at Salerno’s harbor, Italy, on Friday
Renzi also warned last Friday that Rome would look to curb funding to EU nations that had refused to offer help. “They are shutting their doors. We will block their funds,” he said, sounding suspiciously like Turkey’s Erdogan who has so far prevented a new refugee crisis in Europe by gating some 2 million migrants inside Turkey’s borders.
One week later, not even Renzi’s dramatic reversal has prompted a reaction from the EU, leaving Italy in the same place as before, which as a reminder is that due to its geographic location, Italy has been one of the first entry points for people fleeing from the south to reach Europe. More than 86,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy already this year, leaving the nation scrambling – and struggling – to cope with the huge increase of people fleeing north Africa.