Salvini condemns Macron on migrants
Italy has escalated its immigration standoff with France, challenging it to take in more migrants and demanding an apology after President Emmanuel Macron accused the new government in Rome of cynical, irresponsible behaviour by refusing entry to a rescue ship carrying 629 people.
Italy summoned France’s ambassador and the new minister of home affairs Matteo Salvini mentioned Macron in a parliamentary speech.
Salvini said France had accepted a fraction of the 9,816 immigrants it had pledged to receive under a 2015 EU deal to reduce the pressure on Italy and Greece.
Italy has purportedly already accepted more than 13,000 migrants this year, with many being pulled from the Mediterranean.
“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,000 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” Salvini told the Senate to applause.
“I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity,” said the right-wing Lega leader.
Spain offered to take the rescue ship, the Aquarius, in Valencia after Italy and Malta both refused to accept it.
“We are so happy. We’re not going back to Libya. We are going to a land of freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of movement, a place with the right to education,” said Moses, 26, from Sierra Leone, of Spain.
But Algerians and Moroccans on board were clearly unhappy with some saying they had chosen the Libyan route, which is long, expensive and very dangerous, because “the border between Morocco and Spain is very tough, and if they catch you they send you back”.
Italy is attempting to force Europe into action at the summit of EU leaders in Brussels from June 28 to 29. Italy for years has complained that it has been given too little help when handling the migrant crisis.
Salvini claims aid groups are operating de-facto taxi services for trafficking gangs in Libya, and has said rescue ships would be refused entry. But yesterday (Wednesday), an Italian coastguard ship, the Diciotti, docked at the Sicilian port of Catania with 932 migrants.
The ship was greeted by activists criticising the new government’s migrant policy, with a banner saying “Stop the attack on refugees.”
Macron criticised what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility by rejecting the Aquarius, which is operated by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and Medicines Sans Frontiers.
Medicines Sans Frontiers in the Mediterranean. Picture credit: YouTube