Salvini Rebuffs EU Over Open-Door Migration Policy

News: World News
by Stephen Wynne  •  •  July 29, 2019   

Reaffirms Italian sovereignty, control of external borders

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ROME ( - Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is making good on his pledge to restrict illegal migration into his country.

Late last week, Salvini, head of his country's Ministry of the Interior, refused to allow a rescue vessel loaded with shipwrecked Muslim migrants to dock in Italy until the European Union agreed to transfer those aboard to other sites in Europe.

In a letter to the European Commission, Salvini asked European Union officials to arrange the relocation, warning: "I have already given indications that a port is not to be assigned before there is the redistribution of all 140 onboard all over Europe."

As of Sunday, none of Italy's fellow EU member states had agreed to redistribute the migrants.

Salvini's move came after EU representatives gathered in Paris last week to discuss migrant resettlement — a meeting the deputy prime minister did not attend.

After the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron slammed Salvini's absence, provoking a blistering response from the Italian leader.

"Who are you? We're not your employees or your waiters," Salvini reminded Macron.

The choices made only in Paris and Berlin are enough; Italy is no longer willing to accept all immigrants arriving in Europe.

"Italy will not be your refugee camp," he added. "There is the [French] port of Marseille, don't come and put pressure on us. If you expect us to sign a document where ships arrive in Italy, you are wrong. Italians are no longer going to be anyone's slaves."

Salvini has taken an increasingly firm line against the EU over the bloc's open-door migration policy, under which millions of Muslims have resettled in Europe since 2015.

Ahead of last week's summit, he sent a letter to his French counterpart, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, declaring that his government will not be cowed by the pro-migrant Franco-German axis dominating the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron

"The choices made only in Paris and Berlin are enough; Italy is no longer willing to accept all immigrants arriving in Europe," he warned Castaner. "France and Germany can not decide on migration policies by ignoring the demands of the most exposed countries like us and Malta."

A raft of leftists in Europe — including Pope Francis — have criticized Salvini's stance as meanspirited and xenophobic. But the deputy prime minister dismisses their pro-migration advocacy as false charity.

In a message to Italian voters last month, for example, Salvini noted that his policies have led to a dramatic decline in the number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

"More than 5,000 people died at sea in 2016," he noted. "This year we are at a tenth of that. We have gone from 76,858 landings in 2017 to 2,544 this year."

"I want to continue [the] positive trend," he added.

Salvini's uncompromising defense of Italian sovereignty has led to skyrocketing support among Italian voters. Earlier this month, an Ipsos poll showed that support for his Lega party had reached 35.9% — up from 33.3% last month, and double the total Lega won during the March 2018 general elections.

Italy's growing resistance to illegal mass migration is in keeping with increasing opposition in Central Europe and the United States to leftist calls for open-door policies.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó

In an interview with Voice of America last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó warned that mass Muslim migration is threatening Europe's Christian culture and identity and reaffirmed his country's sovereign right to reject multiculturalism.

"We are a country which sticks strictly to national identity, which would like to preserve religious heritage, historic heritage and cultural heritage," said Szijjártó. "We do not want to lose them."

Meanwhile, in spite of outrage among Democrats, President Donald Trump is pushing forward with efforts to tamp down on illegal crossings into the United States from along the southern border.

On Friday, Trump concluded a safe-third country agreement with Guatemala, which allows American officials to deport to Guatemala any migrant passing through the Central American country en route to the United States.

Under pressure from the president, last month, Mexico arrested two organizers of the Central American caravan which last spring brought thousands of migrants streaming northward, bent on illegally entering the United States.

Earlier this year, Mexico halted a new humanitarian visa program that allowed migrants to resettle in Chiapas, a southern state bordering Guatemala; Mexican officials described the program as "too successful," as it sparked a massive influx of migrants from Central America.

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