Salvini faces charges over migrant ‘imprisonment’
Prosecutors in Sicily have placed Italy’s prime minister and both deputy prime ministers under investigation for the alleged false imprisonment of 47 immigrants who were prevented from leaving a rescue ship.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, deputy prime ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, and infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli face charges for refusing to allow the immigrants to disembark the NGO Sea-Watch vessel, which rescued them off the Libyan coast in January.
The 47 passengers waited more than a week after the Sea-Watch 3 was denied the right to dock in Palermo. Their plight prompted an emergency appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the German NGO.
Salvini has repeatedly declared Italian waters closed to NGO rescue vessels. Several ships have been turned away by Salvini in a policy designed to force other European states to take in more migrants.
“I’ve been placed again under investigation,” tweeted Salvini. “However, with me the ports will remain unavailably closed and sealed to the traffickers in human beings.”
In January, an Italian court ruled that Salvini should be tried for the kidnapping of 177 migrants he prevented from boarding the Italian coastguard ship Ubaldo Diciotti in August 2018. Last month senators ruled that Salvini should keep his parliamentary immunity and the case was dropped.
Salvini’s coalition partner, fellow deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads the Five Star Movement (M5S), defended Salvini and said the decision was taken by the whole administration. Di Maio filed a document saying: “If Salvini is responsible for the seizure, then the whole government is responsible.”
Magistrates have three months to decide if Di Maio, Salvini, Toninelli and Conte should face trial and then senators will vote again on their immunity.
Di Maio says will not change economic course despite debt fears and sluggish growth.
Last week, the populist government cut this year’s growth forecast to 0.2 per cent from 1 per cent.
Rome also raised its 2019 deficit to 2.4 per cent, breaking a commitment given to the European Commission last year to stick to just over 2 per cent. The administration also predicted public debt would hit a record 132.6 per cent of GDP.
Di Maio said he still had faith in his plan to reject EU-backed austerity.
“We are not going to change path. We are on this path for growth and we want to further improve Italian production compared to the past,” the 32-year-old said.
Conditions onboard rescue boats have been appalling. Picture credit: Wikimedia