Salvini under investigation over migrants
Italy’s controversial interior minister, Matteo Salvini, is being investigated for his role in preventing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea from landing in Sicily.
Despite the Lega leader’s opposition, a deal has been reached to allow migrants to leave the coastguard vessel (pictured).
The inquiry would focus on “illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power”, according to the Italian media.
Salvini posted on Facebook: “If you want to question me or maybe arrest me because I defend the borders and security of my country, I’m proud of it and I’m waiting for it.”
The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, called for moderation and compassion. It said: “Frightened people who may be in need of international protection should not be caught in the maelstrom of politics.”
The agency called on other member states to “urgently” offer relocation places to migrants, in line with an agreement at an EU summit in June, while Italy in the short term should allow “the immediate disembarkation of those on board”.
The Italian government said the more than 150 migrants on the Diciotti – who are mostly from Eritrea – would soon be allowed to leave the boat after an agreement was reached with the Catholic Church, Albania and Ireland.
Italian bishops would take most of the migrants and around 20 each would go to Albania and Ireland.
It is unlikely the migrants risked their lives crossing the Sahara and Mediterranean to be sent to Albania.
Salvini said most of the migrants would be housed by Italy’s Catholic Church “at zero cost” to the Italian taxpayer.
“The church has opened its heart and opened its wallet,” Salvini told a rally in Pinzolo in northern Italy.
The Diciotti rescued the migrants on August 16 and docked at the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday but only a few children and the sick were allowed off.
Italy is blocking charity rescue ships and its own coastguard from allowing migrants to disembark.
Italy has received more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years and the new government is calling for an EU-wide solution.
An EU summit meeting on Friday failed to find a solution, prompting Italy to threaten to cut off funding to Brussels.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said yesterday (Saturday) that his government was considering a veto on the EU’s draft budget until progress was made on the crisis.
Migrant numbers from North Africa to Italy have fallen by 80 per cent in the past year due to cooperation agreements between Brussels and Libya.
Migrants trapped on the Diciotti this week. Picture credit: YouTube