Italy’s Meloni Blames Organised Crime for ‘Alarming’ Migrant Visa Fraud

ROME – Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has raised concerns over the exploitation of Italy’s legal visa system by criminal gangs to facilitate the smuggling of illegal immigrants. In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Meloni called for an investigation by the anti-Mafia prosecutor into the issue, highlighting the need to address loopholes that are being abused.

Italy, under Meloni’s rightist government, has pursued a stringent approach to immigration while simultaneously expanding legal immigration avenues to address labor shortages. Despite efforts to curb arrivals, the country has witnessed a surge in applications for work visas, particularly in regions like Campania, where the number of applications far exceeds the available employment opportunities.

Meloni expressed alarm at the disproportion between the high number of visa applications and the actual employment contracts signed, citing figures that reveal less than 3% of visa recipients in Campania secured work. She attributed this phenomenon to the infiltration of “organised crime groups” into the visa application process, with illegal migrants paying hefty sums, around 15,000 euros ($16,300), to obtain visas they are not entitled to.

Prompted by these revelations, Meloni has alerted the national anti-Mafia prosecutor and pledged to introduce new measures to combat the exploitation of the visa system, particularly targeting fraud and corruption. These initiatives are expected to be discussed following the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) leaders summit in Italy from June 13-15.

Critics have also voiced concerns about the vulnerability of Italy’s visa system to fraud, attributing it to bureaucratic inefficiencies. Campaign group Ero Straniero highlighted discrepancies in visa issuance and the conversion into stable employment, calling attention to the need for comprehensive reforms.

Despite the challenges posed by visa fraud, interior ministry data indicate a significant decrease in irregular migrant arrivals by sea in 2024 compared to previous years, suggesting a potential positive impact of ongoing efforts to address migration issues in Italy.