1 Introduction

In this age of migration, the arrival, presence and inclusion of migrants remains an enduring test in many countries, as shown by the building of border walls and fences, the retreat from multiculturalism and the concerns regarding Muslim migrants and the risk of radicalisation. Often the topic is addressed through concerns and fears and is experienced as a burden rather than as an opportunity and a resource for the country in question. Particularly in light of international terrorist threats, economic slowdowns and increasing socio-demographic pressure on welfare systems, migration and the inclusion of migrants have often been considered in terms of security threats. The increase in the number of asylum-seekers in recent years and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in further complexities and anxieties. Whereas the pandemic has highlighted the inequalities facing many migrants, who might live in precarious conditions, it has, at the same time, confirmed the tendency of some politicians and political forces to securitise and scapegoat migrant communities for society’s ills, as is the case of Viktor Orbán in Hungary. Such matters become more intricate when migration takes place in areas inhabited by so-called old minorities, like Catalonia, Quebec and Flanders, because, in these cases, the issue of migration intersects with the politics of substate nationalism and the relationship between the existing majorities and minorities and their anxieties (Banting & Soroka, 2012; Østergaard-Nielsen, 2011).Footnote 1 In this regard, what fears and security concerns about migration might arise in a regional context with potentially competing majority and minority cultures and identities?

Situated within the ‘local turn’ in migration studies, namely the focus on the involvement of local and regional governments in the development of policies surrounding migration issues (Caponio & Borkert, 2010; Zapata-Barrero et al., 2017), this contribution explores the case-study of a region where the arrival of migrants meets the presence of old minorities and related tensions. In particular, combining the fields of migration and security studies, I analyse processes of securitisation vis-à-vis migration in South Tyrol, an Italian autonomous province with a German- and Ladin-speaking population and a sophisticated power-sharing system to protect their cultural features.

Securitisation has become a popular and recurrent concept used by researchers and practitioners to analyse migration issues. Several scholars have applied securitisation theory to show how various segments of the migrant population (from undocumented migrants to asylum-seekers to second or third generations) have been framed in political discourses, media or government practices as a threat to states’ cultural identity and/or their political, economic and welfare systems, at times speaking of a migration–security nexus (e.g. Bourbeau, 2017). Research has thus examined the why and the how of securitisation and its consequences to uncover which migrant populations have become the targets of exclusionary and restrictive policies, when this is likely to take place or whether alternative desecuritising processes are in motion.

Though informative, previous work has tended to study the securitisation of migration at the national level, paying less attention to dynamics at the local and regional levels. Research has highlighted the different forms of securitisation and securitising actors in a variety of national contexts, for example: the role of the Canadian media in securitising the arrival of Chinese ‘boat people’ at the end of the 1990s (Ibrahim, 2005), the way political elites and bureaucrats presented migration as a threat in Greece (Swarts & Karakatsanis, 2012) and how the US government securitised Mexican migrants in the 1950s (Astor, 2009). Taken together, scholarship on the securitisation of migration has reproduced a ‘methodological nationalism’ bias that has traditionally characterised scholarship on migration and migrant integration and sees these types of issue as a prerogative of the nation state (Scholten & Penninx, 2016, 92; Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002). Alternatively, other analyses of the securitisation of migration have considered the supra-national level – e.g. the EU (Pinyol-Jiménez, 2012). This approach dilutes complexities and overshadows important local dynamics and the role that local governments and politics play in shaping migration policies and policy for migrants, especially in federal, decentralised or regional states like Italy (Hepburn & Zapata-Barrero, 2014).

I build on and expand this scholarship, focusing on processes of securitisation of migration at the local level, which have thus far been less studied. In particular, I explore the extent to which and under what terms securitisation dynamics have unfolded in discourses and practices in South Tyrol regarding the settlement of migrant communities in the province and the more recent refugee flows. In this way, I uncover the specific processes of securitisation of migration that can emerge in contexts like South Tyrol, which is characterised by the presence of old minorities and a local ethnic cleavage. This contribution thus enlarges the scope of the analysis in two ways. First, I highlight the features of securitisation dynamics in specific regions below the nation-state level. Second, I contribute to the literature on the interplay between ‘the “old” politics of sub-state nationalism and the “new” diversity of immigration’ (Barker, 2015, 2). Adding to this scholarship the frame of securitisation theory, I shed new light on old minorities’ attitudes and responses to migration and migrant integration. The study of South Tyrol reveals the anxieties and insecurities involved in dealing with the management of migration locally in a territory characterised by old diversity and substate nationalism in these times of perceived crises.

South Tyrol is usually considered an example of minority protection thanks to the consociational power-sharing system put in place in 1972, which ended a period of ethnic tensions by regulating relations between South Tyrol and the Italian state and between South Tyrolean linguistic groups. The system, which includes territorial autonomy, a coalition government, ethnic proportionality and separate schools, has fostered peaceful cohabitation among Italian-, German- and Ladin-speakers who, according to the last census in 2011, represent, respectively, 26.1, 69.4 and 4.5% of the South Tyrolean population.Footnote 2 At the same time, however, the consociational sytem has preserved some linguistic divisions for many aspects of social and political life, since each group has its own organisations – such as kindergartens, unions and political parties – and some political forces claiming the right to self-determination for South Tyrol persist. Yet, increasing interaction and cooperation between the linguistic groups has been observed in recent decades (Pallaver, 2014). Meanwhile, since the end of the 1990s, this picture of a South Tyrolean society composed of Italian-, German- and Ladin-speakers has become more complex following the arrival of many migrants from foreign (EU and non-EU) countries who, today, represent a structural feature of South Tyrolean society. The province is an extremely wealthy area with a low unemployment rate and numerous job opportunities for foreigners looking for a better life – both long-term and seasonal workers, the latter mostly employed in the agricultural and tourism sectors.Footnote 3 At the end of 2018, there were 50,333 migrants in South Tyrol from more than 130 countries, amounting to 9.5% of the total population. One third of these migrants came from European Union countries, another 30% from other European countries, 19.3% from Asia and 14.1% from Africa.Footnote 4 Moreover, in recent years South Tyrol, like many other European areas, has experienced an increase in the number of asylum-seekers, hosting in its reception structures between 1400 and 1650 people in 2017, mostly from countries in Central Africa as well as from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Pakistan. In this regard, South Tyrol is a transit area for many asylum-seekers hoping to reach Central and Northern European countries and it is estimated that, in 2016, hundreds of migrants transited every day through some South Tyrolean train stations such as that in Bolzano/Bozen, South Tyrol’s main city (Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano and EURAC Research, 2017). Due to its cultural complexity and conflictual past and the multifaceted aspects of migration in the province, South Tyrol is a relevant case for an exploration of securitising processes related to migration at the regional level and the intersection with substate nationalism politics.

Developed within the field of security studies, securitisation refers to the process through which an issue is considered as an ‘existential threat, requiring emergency measures and justifying actions outside the normal bounds of political procedure’ (Buzan et al., 1998, 23–24). Critically, as first theorised by the so-called Copenhagen School of Security Studies, it is a social construct, since an issue is securitised not necessarily because a real existential threat exists but because it is presented as a threat. Furthermore, the process has an identity component and exclusionary effects. Indeed, as pointed out by Alvarez (2006), it delimits the group to be secured, the threatening group and what is not a threat, as well as who is an insider and who an outsider. Thus, there is a nexus between practices of security and practices of identity since securitisation fosters a friend–enemy distinction, shaping the boundaries of communities (Carlà, 2020) and, as Guillaume and Huysmans (2013, 20) wrote, ‘transfiguring alterity into an otherness’. As the antithesis of securitisation, desecuritisation has a variety of understandings, from the unmaking of the institutionalised representation of an issue as threatening to transforming the friend–enemy logic and reframing narratives of groups’ identities in less exclusionary terms (Hansen, 2012).

In this contribution, I define securitisation as a subjective process through which the presence of migrants and their cultural diversity come to be perceived in prevalently exclusionary forms centred on an ‘us vs them’ dichotomy, implying homogenous entities in threatening opposition. Scholars have long shown the various ways in which securitisation might unfold as well as the context and conditions behind it. I combine the Copenhagen School approach, which considers securitisation as a ‘speech act’ developed in political discourses, accepted and endorsed by a public audience (Buzan et al., 1998), with a sociological variant that highlights the role of social, policy and legal practices (e.g., Olesker, 2014).Footnote 5 Following Bilgic (2013), I understand (de)securitisation as a continuum, in the sense of the development of simultaneous processes of securitisation and desecuritisation (see also Jaroszewicz et al., 2020). Research on (de)securitisation tends to focus on a prevalent master narrative that targets a specific community. In this way, the research ‘does not reflect the pluralism of the politics of security’ and ignores alternative discourses, ideas and practices embedded in the polity (Bilgic, 2013, 6). Instead, this contribution looks at the discourses of multiple political actors and a variety of practices in order to highlight how (de)securitising moves emerge, evolve and dissolve and how different (de)securitisation processes develop simultaneously and overlap.

To conduct the analysis, I combine various methodologies and consider a variety of data. On the one hand, I look at speech acts – relying on the critical discourse analyses of political programmes and selected speeches by the main South Tyrolean political parties and on debates in the South Tyrolean Provincial Council surrounding the 2011 provincial law on integration; this in order to capture the various parties’ approach to the topic of migration and the extent to and forms in which migration has been (de)securitised in political discourses. I look at the political discourses of all the parties represented in the Provincial Council since the 2008 election. On the other hand, I look at practices, examining the laws and policies enacted in matters of migration by the South Tyrolean government. In addition, I present the results of existing public opinion surveys and elections of the Provincial Council, which I use as a proxy to measure the rate of acceptance by the South Tyrolean public of securitising acts. The analysis runs from 2006, when migration became a contested topic in the provincial political arena,Footnote 6 to the beginning of 2021, in order to cover the refugee flows of the past few years and touch upon the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within this time frame, I uncover the historical development of (de)securitisation discourses and practices in South Tyrol and how they intersect with more recent events.

The analysis is organised in three parts. I first consider South Tyrolean political discourses on migration of the main South Tyrolean political forces. Second, I look at how these discourses intersect with practices established by provincial policy and legal measures regulating the processes of migrant inclusion. Finally, I discuss the extent to which securitising acts are endorsed by the South Tyrolean public, presenting a few available public opinion surveys and electoral results for the Provincial Council.

2 Political Discourses

This section builds on Carlà (2012, 2019). Since its appearance in the provincial political arena, the topic of migration and the inclusion of migrants in South Tyrolean society has often been securitised in some political discourses, being presented as a danger and as a spark for tensions. Such discourses coexist with alternative narratives that deal with migration issues in positive and non-threatening terms. It is possible to identify five different types of securitising move, often in an interplay with discourses surrounding South Tyrolean linguistic groups and their relationship, and the system put in place to protect them.

First, there are right-wing political forces in both the Italian and German political arena – as there are in many other European countries and regions – that link migration to anxiety about cultural alienation, as well as to issues of criminality. Migrants, especially those from Muslim-majority countries, are the new dangerous other, foreigners who must be made to adhere to local cultures and values. With their customs and religious practices, migrants are seen as challenging and threatening the culture and traditions of South Tyrol and its population. This fear is well represented in the claims ‘We don’t want over-alienation!’ (Süd-Tiroler Freiheit, 2018) and ‘Our land belongs to us, and whoever arrives here must remember the name on the doorbell’ (cited in Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 2011a), proposals to select or prioritise European migrants over non-European ones (e.g. Pahl et al., 2007) and the association made between migration and crime (see Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 2011d).

Second, there are references to welfare chauvinism and the fear that migrants will monopolise socio-economic resources. Thus, various political forces have made calls to limit migrants’ access to social benefits and at times to give priority to the local population. The most extreme versions of such discourses have presented public assistance for migrants as a form of discrimination against local residents (Carlà, 2012). It should be noted that this theme intersects with the fact that South Tyrol, thanks to its political autonomy and economic prosperity, has a generous welfare system which, at times, has been thought to attract unwanted migrants who take advantage of social benefits. This concern was clearly stated by Luis Durnwalder (2008), former president of the province, who pointed out the need for South Tyrol to ‘avoid becoming a magnet for all those who benefit from social services but are not willing to make any contribution’.

Third, in the past – though to a lesser extent today – German-speaking political parties have expressed a demographic fear whereby migrants alter the balance and demographic equilibrium between the Italian- and German-speaking groups.Footnote 7 Indeed, migrants were seen as integrating mainly with the Italian-speaking group, because they mostly live in predominantly Italian areas. According to this perspective,

many migrants do not think that they live in South Tyrol but in Italy, so their children attend Italian schools; what will the consequences be when they grow up and can vote? (Sven Knoll, cited in Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 2008).

Thus emerged the fear manifested by Sven Knoll, one of the leaders of the nationalist party Süd-Tiroler Freiheit, that migrants ‘will become tomorrow’s Italians’, endangering the German character of South Tyrol (Knoll, 2011). Therefore, as stated in the 2018 programme of Die Freiheitlichen, another German-speaking nationalist political force, migration ‘must thereby be compatible with the special ethnic structure of the country, the cultural characteristics of South Tyrol’ (Die Freiheitlichen, 2018).

Fourth, migration is at times seen as putting into question the South Tyrolean consociational power-sharing system and the peaceful cohabitation among the linguistic groups. Indeed, on the one hand, the presence of migrants has been considered as undermining the effectiveness of some of the measures to protect the South Tyrol groups, creating tensions between them (see Carlà, 2012). On the other, some political forces have used migration as a symbol for the fact that South Tyrolean society has evolved beyond the ethnolinguistic divisions maintained by South Tyrol’s consociational institutions, which should thus be updated and modified. As explained by a leader of the Green Party, migrants are ‘the main indicators that our society is very different from the rough schematisation imposed by the ethnic proportions’ (Foppa, n.d.). These tensions are summarised in the 2018 party programme of the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP), the party that has historically represented the German-speaking population and governed the province, according to which ‘the migration movements of recent years have posed great challenges to th[e] orderly coexistence’ of the three South Tyrolean linguistic groups (SVP, 2018).

Finally, some discourses have claimed that migration has caused conflict between the provincial government and the Italian state regarding political competencies and policies to manage the influx of migrants and the process of migrant integration. In the Italian national system, the South Tyrolean government is responsible for policies concerning the integration of migrants (though within a general framework provided by Rome), whereas the Italian government is in charge of migration control policies. In this context, there have been discussions on the need to increase provincial power in matters of migration or to adapt national integration policies to the specific cultural features of South Tyrol. Furthermore, German-speaking nationalist parties have connected this discussion with their claim for self-determination. In this view, political autonomy could not prevent migrants from integrating mainly within the Italian-speaking group and, thus, it is necessary to pursue an alternative – namely independence (Carlà, 2016).

These securitising discourses have intersected with two developments that have often catalysed public and political attention in recent years: the increase in the number of asylum-seekers and refugees, which started in 2014 and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. The former has further reinforced existing securitising moves. Indeed, in South Tyrolean political discourses, the concept of asylum-seekers has been combined with other categories of people – from refugees to undocumented migrants to economic migrants – as part of a group of people who are perceived as a threat. In this regard, Engl and Wisthaler (2020, 478) show that discussions on refugees and asylum-seekers in the South Tyrolean parliament in 2015–2016 concentrated on measures to prevent their settlement in the province or to limit the movement of people, including restricting access to social benefits. Similarly, in the party programmes for the last 2018 provincial election, discourses focused on how to control the border, the need to ‘actively manage migration and, above all, stop illegal immigration’ (SVP, 2018) or the fact that, in general, ‘migration needs to be controlled’ (Die Freiheitlichen, 2018). Furthermore, migrants have been linked – even more than previously – to crime and pressure on the South Tyrolean welfare system and public services. For instance, according to the Lega (n.d., 3, 4), the presence of migrant students in schools ‘hinders the education of our children!’ who ‘feel like foreigners in their own home’. At the same time, the arrival of asylum-seekers has reignited debates concerning the provincial power to manage migration and claim-seeking around a further shift in competencies from the state to the province (Engl & Wisthaler, 2020, 479).

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a mixed effect on existing securitising discourses. On the one hand, the pandemic and related issues have dominated public attention and political debates. In this way, discussions surrounding migration and asylum-seekers have been side-lined. On the other hand, a few politicians in South Tyrol, as in other parts of Europe, have securitised the migrant population in terms of the pandemic, blaming migrants for bringing in the virus and stressing the pandemic situation at reception centres, where the need for more controls is highlighted (see Alto Adige, 2020; Andros, 2021).

It should be noted, however, that the securitising moves presented thus far face a variety of non-securitising and desecuritising discourses developed by various political forces. These range from the SVP’s consideration of migration as an economic necessity and the rejection of xenophobia (SVP, 2008), to a view of migration as an inevitable process that will change South Tyrolean society and that should be faced without fear (see Consiglio della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, 2011b, c), to a rejection of the use of ‘emergency tones’ while arguing that migration is a problem that requires control (Team Köllensperger, n.d.). In the most radical view, the Partito Democratico (n.d., 2, 4) defines migrants as ‘new citizens’, ‘an integral part of South Tyrol’s present and future’ and the ‘strength of the new multicultural social texture’, whereas the Green Party considers them as an economic, social and cultural enrichment for South Tyrolean society that should be welcomed (see Verdi–Grüne–Vërc, n.d.-a). According to the Green Party’s 2018 electoral manifesto,

Plurilingualism and multiculturalism are important assets for South Tyrol, enriched every day by persons coming from all over the world … an opportunity for change, enrichment and renewal (Verdi–Grüne–Vërc, n.d.-b, 3–4).

3 Policy and Legal Practices

This ambivalence between securitising and desecuritising discourses is mirrored in the policy practices and legal instruments adopted by the South Tyrolean government in matters of migration. Indeed, the current provincial approach to migration is based on the principle of ‘fordern und fördern/sostegno a fronte di impegno’ (promoting and demanding), which inspired the 2011 local law on the integration of foreign citizensFootnote 8 and more recently the 2016 policy document ‘Zusammenleben in Südtirol. Wir vereinbaren Integration/Convivere in Alto Adige. Un patto per l’integrazione’ (Cohabitation in South Tyrol: A Pact on Integration), which specifies how to pursue integration in the province (Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano Alto Adige, 2016, 3). In the framework of the ‘promoting and demanding’ principle as presented in the Pact, integration is recognised, on the one hand, as a dual process: cultural diversity is seen as a form of enrichment and there are references to the concepts of tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue. On the other hand, integration is understood as a quid pro quo, where provisions of support and services for migrants are linked to individuals’ commitment to learn the local languages and to respect local values, traditional cultures and rules (Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano Alto Adige, 2016).

In this framework, securitising moves are revealed in three main developments: (1) the South Tyrolean government’s focus on the need to limit the socio-economic and socio-cultural effects of migration on South Tyrolean society and the relations between South Tyrolean linguistic groups, (2) the adoption of measures of welfare chauvinism and (3) clashes between the South Tyrolean and Italian governments. For example, attention is paid to encouraging migrants to learn not only Italian but also German. In this context, in 2009, Italian laws required that migrants pass an Italian-language test in order to obtain a long-term residence permit and introduced the accordo di integrazione (integration agreement), which consists of a points system in which migrants declare their commitment to learning the Italian language (among other things). The South Tyrolean government considered these measures problematic and requested a German test and classes as alternatives but Rome only agreed to add optional German classes in the criteria for the integration agreement (Carlà & Medda-Windischer, 2018). Furthermore, mirroring the fear that migrants will put pressure on the welfare system, the 2011 provincial law on integration included measures that limited migrants’ access to some socio-economic benefits by requiring several years of residency in order to receive them. The Italian Constitutional Court considered such measures to be unconstitutional.Footnote 9 Similarly, the European Court of Justice ruled against a provincial practice of treating non-EU-national long-term residents differently from EU nationals in the allocation of housing benefits (Carlà & Medda-Windischer, 2018). Along these lines, in 2018 the province adopted measures that follow a civic-integration approach, according to which migrants are required to conform to society by meeting certain integration requirements, such as taking classes and training through which they learn the country’s language, values and specific features. Specifically, access to some economic benefits in South Tyrol was linked to the provision of proof by migrants of their willingness to integrate and of their participation in programmes to promote integration – for instance, attending courses on civic education and learning Italian or German.

With the increase in the number of refugees and asylum-seekers, securitising discourses are reflected in policy practices that have addressed the issue in terms of an unwelcome emergency and that are aimed at containing it rather than developing comprehensive solutions (Carlà et al., 2021). Indeed, for years, South Tyrol did not take proper measures to manage the arrival of asylum-seekers, thus not adhering to the national system for the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees, called until 2018 SPRAR system (Sistema di Protezione per Richiedenti Asilo e Rifugiati). The system, which is managed by local entities and based on diffused reception in small-sized accommodation, guarantees the provision of legal, linguistic and information services, among others. Instead, the province relied at first on large reception structures, mostly in Bolzano/Bozen, where most asylum-seekers were concentrated (Rabini, 2018). Within these structures, many services, such as psychological support and proper accommodation, were not always provided and problems of public order sometimes arose. Moreover, many people (about 330 in 2015–2016) remained outside of the structures, sleeping in parks and under bridges (Dalla Pria, 2018; Rabini, 2018). In this regard, in September 2016 the province enacted a rule – the so-called circolare Critelli (Critelli memo) – which excluded some vulnerable people (those who were previously present in other EU countries and Italian regions) from access to reception services (see Fondazione Alexander Langer et al., 2017). In the second stage, smaller reception arrangements were made in some towns and, in 2018, some South Tyrolean municipalities and local entities subscribed to the SPRAR system.Footnote 10 Instead, in Bolzano/Bozen, procedures continued to rely on large reception structures and a sense of emergency. Observers considered such policies a model of reception based on precarity and dissuasion so that people would not want to settle in South Tyrol (Fondazione Alexander Langer et al., 2017, 13; Saltarelli, 2017).

4 Public Endorsement

These securitising discourses and practices do not happen in a vacuum of public opinion. Indeed, they seem to be endorsed by part of the South Tyrolean population, as shown in the few available surveys that address the issue as well as the political vicissitudes of those parties that endorse the most securitising moves. In fact, in a 2007 survey, almost half of South Tyroleans considered migration from non-EU countries to be among the country’s three main problems (ASTAT, 2008, 1). In addition, according to a 2016 survey (see Table 14.1), almost half of the South Tyrolean population agreed or very much agreed that increasing migration had led to the spread of terrorism and crime while a little less than a third disagreed or very much disagreed with the statement that migrants’ presence was positive because it allowed a comparison with other cultures (ASTAT, 2018).

Table 14.1 Agreement with statements concerning migrants – 2016 (in %)

Another hint of the public endorsement of securitising moves comes from looking at the electoral results of South Tyrolean political parties since the turn of the century. Indeed, most of these parties that have pursued this type of discourse have experienced good electoral results. In the German-speaking political arena, for example, we have witnessed the growth of right-wing nationalist parties with some of the aforementioned securitising stances on the topic of migration, specifically Süd-Tiroler Freiheit and especially Die Freiheitlichen, which (the latter), in the 2013 provincial election, became the second-strongest political force, obtaining 17.9% of the vote (up from 5% in 2003) – though, in the 2018 election, the party experienced a remarkable setback, receiving only 6.2% of the vote.Footnote 11

More surprisingly, in the Italian-speaking political arena, is the recent electoral success of the Lega, with its clear anti-migrant stances. The Lega has traditionally been weak in the province, overshadowed by other Italian nationalist right-wing parties, which have traditionally run on issues surrounding relations between Italian- and German-speaking groups. In the 2018 provincial election, the Lega was the main party chosen by Italian-speakers, receiving more than 11% of the vote. Thanks to this electoral success, it entered a government coalition with the SVP (as mandated by South Tyrol’s consociational system), which thus far had traditionally allied itself with Italian-speaking centre-left/left parties (e.g. Partito Democratico), known for their non-securitising and desecuritising speeches on the topic of migration. Although people did not vote for these parties exclusively for their anti-migrant positions, their electoral results might reflect a certain level of acceptance of their securitising discourses surrounding migration.

5 Conclusions

Pioneering works on the relationships between old minorities and new migrant communities have often sustained the so-called ‘threat hypothesis’, namely the belief that the former frequently consider large-scale migration as a danger and manifest assimilationist and exclusionary attitudes towards migrants because of their ethnocentric understanding of identities or the fear that migrants will integrate into the majority nation (Jeram & Adam, 2015, 241). Though subsequent research (e.g., Jeram et al., 2016) has pointed out the variety and complexity of relations between old minorities and migration from foreign countries, and the several variables at play, my contribution corroborates and expands this preliminary observation. In particular, I position the threat hypothesis in the framework of securitisation theory and highlight the several facets that processes of securitisation might take in local contexts where old minorities and new communities from recent migratory flows meet.

In South Tyrol, we have witnessed the development of a variety of overlapping and simultaneous securitising acts vis-à-vis the topic of migration and the arrival and settlement in the province of foreign migrants, considered as an other that threatens or causes problems for South Tyrolean society. In addition to the political discourses that we find in many other European countries and regions, which link migration to crimes and civic insecurities and present migrants as a burden for the welfare system and a cultural threat, South Tyrol presents several narratives that treat migration in threatening terms in regard to the peculiar cultural and institutional features of the province – that is, the relationship between the Italian- and German-speaking (and Ladin-speaking) groups and between South Tyrol and the Italian state. Furthermore, some policy and legal practices implemented by the provincial government reflect these types of discourse – discourses that seem to find support among part of the South Tyrolean population, which has expressed concerns about migration and has rewarded the political parties responsible for securitising speeches. Security concerns have intersected with apprehensions sparked by the increase in the arrival of asylum-seekers and the recent Covid-19 pandemic. These specific events did not initiate the process of securitisation of migration but encouraged politicians to further pursue existing securitising moves.Footnote 12 However, there are also alternative non-securitising and desecuritising moves that present migration in positive terms and address migrants as an integral resource for South Tyrolean society. Yet, the perception of migration as a threat has left an imprint in South Tyrolean discourses and practices on migration.

Overall, as scholars of the local turn in migration studies argue for the importance of considering how the substate level intersects with the national configuration in order to provide a more comprehensive understanding of migration management and migrant integration (Scholten & Penninx, 2016), I similarly highlight the importance of adding a substate level of analysis to nation-state-bounded perspectives on processes involved in the securitisation of migration. Indeed, many migrant policies unfold at the substate level. At the same time, local features, like South Tyrolean politics of substate nationalism, might shape and interact with securitising discourses and practices on migration in a unique way. Thus, this approach is paramount for a thorough account of today’s anxieties sparked by migration and the integration of the migrant population in these times of crises.