'No way': Italy's leader takes Australian cue on refugees
Advertisement

'No way': Italy's leader takes Australian cue on refugees

London: Italy will imitate Australia’s “No Way” border control policy to stop migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and head of the populist far-right Lega party says.

Matteo Salvini, who is also the Minister of the Interior and one of the most powerful politicians in the country, has made similar comments before.

But his remarks on Italian radio on Thursday have been interpreted as a new push to toughen Italian border policy and keep refugees out by refusing them the right to step onto Italian soil if they come by boat.

Italy's media have paid new attention to Australia's border control policy after their Deputy Prime Minister vowed to imitate it to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Italy's media have paid new attention to Australia's border control policy after their Deputy Prime Minister vowed to imitate it to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Salvini has come under pressure after refusing to allow a ship from his own coast guard to disembark migrants it rescued at sea last week.

Advertisement

The migrants were found on a dangerously overloaded boat off the coast of Lampedusa, where more than 360 people died when a migrant boat sank in 2013.

The Italian Coast Guard ship Ubaldo Diciotti was forced to remain at sea for five days before it docked in the port of Catania in Sicily.

Loading

About 27 children were allowed off on Wednesday night, but Salvini said the other 150 migrants on board will not be allowed off until other European countries have agreed to take them. He has also threatened to ship them back to Libya.

Italy's commissioner for the rights of detainees, Mauro Palma, said that the migrants were "de facto deprived of freedom without any legal basis or judicial oversight".

Italian media reported that the Sicilian public prosecutor was investigating an unknown person for illegal imprisonment.

Salvini responded on Twitter that the unknown person was no stranger and it was in fact him.

"No one unknown, investigate me!" Salvini tweeted. "I am the one who does not want more illegal immigrants to land in Italy."

Loading

In the interview on Italy’s RTL radio on Thursday, he repeated his defiance, saying “I denounce myself, I am Matteo Salvini… I am Minister of the Interior and I consider it my duty to defend the security and the borders of this country”.

The standoff was also criticised by House Speaker Roberto Fico, from Salvini’s partner in government the Five-Star Movement, who said the migrants should be let off the boat.

Salvini said he did “not go to bed thinking of Fico and I do not wake up thinking about Fico”.

“I consider it my right and my duty to do all I can to stop the work of smugglers and traffickers of human beings,” he said.

“I take responsibility for being ugly, violent, bad, fascist, populist, Nazi, racist, but I do it because our children are safer on our streets.”

He said he had spoken to President Giuseppe Conte about the case and assured him that “as a minister and as a father” he was taking steps to bring children off the boat.

He claimed they were all unaccompanied minors, and said he wanted to "meet face to face with those mothers and fathers who put them on half-deflated boats and risked sinking their children".

Loading

“You know that in Australia there is the principle of ‘no way’ - none of those who are rescued at sea sets foot on Australian soil,” Salvini said.

“This will have to be achieved [in Italy]. My goal is not redistribution [of refugees] in Europe, but in the countries of departure… Bangladesh, Eritrea, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Pakistan, Mali.”

Genuine refugees fleeing war should be screened overseas and come to Europe “not in rubber dinghies but in aeroplanes”, Salvini said.

Salvini’s comments led to a flurry of analysis of Australia’s Sovereign Borders operation in the Italian media. Newspaper Corierre Della Sera at one point had Australia’s ‘No Way’ video message to potential migrants at the top of its website.