New Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, prior to a cabinet meeting of the second Conte government in Palazzo Chigi, Rome, September 5, 2019 | Photo:  ANSA/Maurizio Brambatti
New Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, prior to a cabinet meeting of the second Conte government in Palazzo Chigi, Rome, September 5, 2019 | Photo: ANSA/Maurizio Brambatti

The decision to give the post of interior minister to bureaucrat, expert and long-standing ministry official Luciana Lamorgese could be read as a sign that Italian migration policy is about to change. Could her appointment be a break from the policies pushed hard by outgoing minister Matteo Salvini?

In the last administration, the Italian interior ministry and its minister Matteo Salvini were rarely out of the headlines. Salvini, a frequent user of social media pushed his politics hard, introducing a decree regarding migration and security. It seems, in deciding to appoint a non-politician to the post of interior minister the focus of the new Italian government could be about depoliticizing this post.

The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella has reportedly backed ''cooling things off'' and wanted to avoid giving such a delicate position to a politician who would likely have been targeted daily by their predecessor. The new interior minister will thus be an "expert,"or bureaucrat. Luciana Lamorgese previously served as prefect (a type of governor) in Milan and Venice. She has had a long career in government administration, in particular within the structures of the interior ministry itself.

'New law on immigration needed'

The issue of migrants will be the first item on her agenda. It is an issue on which she has focused several times in different roles. The newcomers in this government, the Democratic Party (PD) had pushed for a break with the past and it seems they have got it. In the program, noted the PD whip in the Chamber of Deputies Graziano Delrio, "it was written that a new law on immigration is needed that goes beyond the logic of 'emergency'".

The idea of breaking with the past extends beyond just policy. Lamorgese is a very different character to Salvini. She does not have a social media profile for instance and so it is difficult to imagine her standing on the roof of the interior ministry conducting a Facebook Live with her followers or the nation. It remains to be seen whether new laws will be enacted. For now though, Salvini's migration and security decree remains in force. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground needs to be dealt with. Daily reports bring news of more migrant boat landings.
The question is: what will happen to the next humanitarian ship that tries to enter Italian waters with a group of rescued migrants? It is possible that the new minister will not sign a ban - as the League leader did every time on the basis of Article 1 of his decree, which gave him the possibility of "limiting or prohibiting entrance" to ships "for reasons of public order or security."

Will the policy change?

Lamorgese has, in the past, criticised anti-migrant policies. Many analysts are expecting her to modify Italy's migration policy "in line with the recent observations made by the president."

On August 8, President Sergio Mattarella sent an open letter in relation to the security decree. In it, the head of state raised "significant questions," regarding the sanctions against ships that were found to have violated the entrance ban to Italian territorial waters. Under the previous government, humanitarian ships could face fines of up to one million euros and several ships were impounded by the authorities which prevented them from carrying out further rescues for sometimes weeks or months at a time.

There will be a lot of negotiation ahead to find agreement between the two parties of Italy's new coalition. If however they do find agreement regarding migration policy, there is potential for the immigration law to be rewritten. Lamorgese has already worked extensively with migration issues in her roles as prefect as well as within the interior ministry. She also studied law.

When Lamorgese was prefect of Milan she lashed out at anti-migrant regulations brought in by League mayors in the region saying "it is important to accept diversity, which brings richness [...]to the region [...] and move forward with integration." It is expected she will put more resources into strengthening integration projects too.

The new minister will also focus on restoring good relations with the EU and other European capitals, from Paris to Berlin; out of conviction that alliances are needed to change things. It is expected that she will try and get EU leaders to look again at the Dublin Treaty which requires the country where migrants first arrive to take responsibility for them.


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