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(AP) Italy immigration: New interior minister Matteo Salvini promises to ‘stop the death boats’

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Tuesday, 05 June 2018

Italy immigration: New interior minister Matteo Salvini promises to ‘stop the death boats’

Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini speaks to media in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. Photo: AP
Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini speaks to media in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. Photo: AP
  • The Australian
  • 7:40AM June 4, 2018


Italy’s new interior minister, the Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, wasted no time in reinforcing hard line policies, visiting a Sicilian immigration camp on the weekend after warning: “The good times for illegals is over — get ready to pack your bags”.

He also mirrored the immigration lines of the Australian government, saying that a new Italian migration policy would save lives.

“Every life is sacred — to save lives you have to stop the departures of these death boats, which is a lucrative business for some and a disgrace for the rest of the world,” he said.

Mr Salvini’s party won the ability to form a populist Italian government with the Five Star Movement, after promising to stop the unrelenting wave of migrants arriving from North Africa and send home half a million who are not documented.

In addition to those not registered, there are estimated to be 600,000 migrants in Italy with at least 13,500 having arrived this year. On the weekend, Tunisian coast guard reported that 35 people had drowned and scores missing as 67 migrants were rescued off Tunisia as they tried to reach Italy. Another nine people were feared drowned off Turkey en route to Greece.

Mr Salvini, in his first post-election travails, visited Pozzallo, one of the southern Sicilian arrival posts for the migrants and then to Catania, where he promised to implement deportation centres.

“Enough of Sicily being the refugee camp of Europe,” he said.

“I will not stand by and do nothing while there are landings after landings. We need deportation centres.”

He added: “Fewer landings and more expatriations. It is not a hard line, just common sense. There is not enough housing and work for Italians, let alone half the continent of Africa.”

The Northern League and Five Star Movement have plans to pressure the European Union for tougher asylum laws at a meeting on Tuesday and have flagged further collisions with Brussels by introducing tax cuts and more welfare spending, exceeding the Euro’s three per cent deficit limit.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel invited the new Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte for talks but has flagged a differing view to the migration problem. She told German newspapers that a common asylum system across the European Union with asylum processing at the external borders was necessary.

“We need uniform procedures at the European external borders, and the Frontex European border management agency has to become a real European border police,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

“At the final stage, we need a common European refugee agency, which carries out all asylum procedures at the external borders on the basis of a single European asylum law.

“Germany has an elementary interest in an effective Europe.”

Italy will no longer be 'Europe's refugee camp,' vows new government

Gavin Jones  JUNE 4, 2018 / 1:47 PM

ROME (Reuters) - Italy will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp”, newly installed interior minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday as he promised tough action to reduce migrant arrivals and send back those who have already come.

Salvini, head of the right-wing League and a deputy prime minister in the eurosceptic coalition, has made curbing immigration a clarion call of his party whose popularity is rising fast in opinion polls.

Two days after the government was sworn in on Friday, Salvini headed for Sicily, the main port of call for more than 600,000 migrants who have arrived on Italy’s shores from north Africa since 2014.

“The party is over,” for migrants in Italy, he said, before visiting a so-called “hotspot” or reception centre, in the port of Pozzallo, where boat-borne arrivals are registered, photo-identified and fingerprinted.

The League says the vast majority of migrants in Italy have no right to refugee status, Italy cannot afford to help them and by accepting low pay they worsen the working conditions of Italians.

Salvini kept up the pressure on Monday, saying in a radio interview that Italy “can’t be transformed into a refugee camp,” and vowing to lobby Italy’s partners to obtain more EU assistance to handle the problem.

“It’s clear and obvious that Italy has been abandoned, now we have to see facts,” Salvini said, when asked about comments from German chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe needs a new approach on immigration.

Salvini, who wants to open a migrant detention and deportation centre in every Italian region, later tweeted: “either Europe gives us a hand in making our country secure, or we will choose other methods.”

Italy has become the main route into Europe for economic migrants and asylum seekers, with hundreds of thousands making the perilous crossing from North Africa each year and thousands dying at sea. The other main route, from Turkey to Greece, was largely shut after more than 1 million people arrived in 2015.

After at least 48 migrants were killed at the weekend when their boat sank off Tunisia’s coast, Salvini said there was no reason for people to be fleeing Tunisia which was “a free and democratic country”.

An opinion poll by the Ipsos agency published on Saturday in daily Corriere della Sera showed support for the League had risen to 28.5 percent from 17 percent at the March 4 election.

It now stands just 1.6 points behind its coalition partner, the more left-leaning 5-Star Movement, whose support has slipped slightly since it took 32.7 percent at the election.

Western Europe’s first anti-establishment government, which faces its first confidence vote in the upper house Senate on Tuesday, seems determined to hit the ground running.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio, also a deputy prime minister as well as labour and industry minister, pledged on Saturday to overhaul the signature labour reform, known as the “Jobs Act”, of the previous centre-left government.

Italian markets, which sold off heavily early last week on fears of a repeat election, continued to recover on Monday.

The gap between the yield on Italy’s benchmark bonds and their safer German equivalent narrowed to its tightest in a week, while Italy’s blue chip share index recovered form early losses and was up 0.4 percent.

Editing by Peter Graff

Italy will no longer be 'Europe's refugee camp,' vows new government ...

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