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A sea of difference? Australian and Italian approaches to irregular migration and seaborne asylum seekers


While Australian and Italian policies on irregular maritime migration are widely debated, they have seldom been examined together, a gap in the literature that this article addresses with a comprehensive comparative analysis. Informed by theories on irregular migrants' reception, it traces the two countries' policies between 2000 and early 2022, and examines their many convergences and few discrepancies through a framework comprising (i) domestic pressures, (ii) international pressures, and (iii) the choice between the moral imperative and national interest. It finds that contrasting socio-political characteristics domestically explain why Canberra and Rome have at times adopted opposite policies, whereas comparable international pressures clarify the implementation of similar ones. It also sheds light on the contradiction in Australia's middle power identity and ‘good international citizenship', and on Italy’s torn posture betwixt great power politics and humanitarian efforts. In 2020–2022, their policy continuity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is worthy of notice.