Italy’s new deputy prime minister/interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says “Italy and Sicily cannot and will not be Europe’s (Muslim) refugee camp.” Salvini campaigned on a staunchly anti-Muslim migrant platform, vowing to “put Italians first and send half a million illegal migrants home.”
Al-Jazeera (h/t Maurice) Italy’s new populist/right wing government will refuse to let a so-called “humanitarian” boat carrying more than 600 alleged refugees and migrants dock at any of its ports and has asked the Mediterranean country of Malta to open its doors to the vessel, according to media reports.
“Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” Mr Salvini wrote on Facebook. “From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”
“From now also Italy begins to say NO to the trafficking of migrant wannabes, NO to the business of illegal immigration,” Matteo Salvini, Italian interior minister and head of the right-leaning League party, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
“My goal is to guarantee a peaceful life for these children in Africa and for our children in Italy,” added Salvini, who is also a deputy prime minister after campaigning on a staunchly anti-immigrant platform, vowing to “put Italians first” and send hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants “home.”
More than 600,000 mainly Muslim invaders have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but there has been a rise in rescues in recent days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.
Earlier on Sunday, the so-called ‘charity’ SOS Mediterranee on Twitter that its rescue ship, The Aquarius, had taken on board 629 refugees and migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.
The ‘charity’ said the group of mainly sub-Saharan African Muslims were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya and included hundreds who were plucked from the sea by Italian naval units and then transferred to The Aquarius.
“The boat is now heading north towards a secure port,” SOS Mediterranee tweeted on Sunday without specifying its destination, though virtually every such boat over the past five years has ended up in Italy.
Salvini, 45, has continued with his anti-refugee rhetoric since taking control of the interior ministry, asking on Friday for NATO to defend Italy, which he says is “under attack from the south”.
His stance on immigration has been enshrined in the 57-page contract the League agreed to with government coalition partner Five Star Movement. Headed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the government was inaugurated last week.
The immigration section of the policy document calls for the deportation of Italy’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants “as a priority”, building more detention centres and a review of the European Union’s Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that migrants and refugees apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach.
Salvini’s comments on Sunday came after another spat with Malta following its reported refusal to come to the aid of another rescue ship, Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 refugees on board due to violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.
Salvini told a rally in Sondrio, Lombardy: “Open doors in Italy for good people and a one-way ticket for those who come to Italy to create commotion and think they will be taken care of. ‘Send them home’ will be one of our top priorities.”
Salvini added he wants to see cuts in what he claimed was the annual five billion euros ($5.8bn) spent on “maintaining immigrants”. In 2017, the government allocated about 4.2 billion euros ($4.9bn) for migrants and refugees arriving via Libya, nearly two-thirds of which went to reception centres.