Daily Management Review

Italy says No to refugees


Brussels should prepare for a humanitarian crisis in connection with the new Italian government’s policy on the issue of migrants.

The new government of Italy has stepped on the warpath. The Northern League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, was the first to challenge Brussels. Fulfilling pre-election promises, he took a tough stance and refused to accept an Aquarius ship with 629 refugees from African countries on board.

"We opened the front in Brussels," Matteo Salvini said and added that Italy won the first victory.

Salvini advised that the ship with refugees to sent to Malta. However, the Maltese authorities refused, saying that Italian border guards are responsible for all the rescue operations of the ships with refugees, sailing from the coast of Libya to Europe, and so they should be taken by Italy.

Spain saved the situation. The new Spanish Prime Minister, socialist Pedro Sanchez, allowed the ship to dock in Valencia and said that his country would happily accept the migrants. The head of the Italian government, Giuseppe Conte, thanked his colleague for the "gesture of solidarity". The Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, also thanked Spain for accepting the ship, and accused Italy of violating international law and provoking a crisis. Sanchez was also praised in the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), but the United Nations warned that Madrid does not have enough resources and infrastructure to cope with the influx of refugees.

Neither Spain, nor Italy said anything about people who have already spent two days at Aquarius and who have two more days to stay at sea. Meanwhile, it is known that the ship is running out of supplies and that there are at least one hundred children among the refugees. Many passengers urgently need medical and other help. By the way, people on the Aquarius are gathered as a result of six rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

While political scientists were wondering when the Italian government would show its populist position, Rome took advantage of the first opportunity. Italy's new position, however, does not seem to mean that it refuses to accept absolutely all migrants. Perhaps, the refugees who try to cross the Apennines on ships of non-governmental organizations, like Aquarius, will not be so lucky. For example, a ship of the Italian Coast Guard with 937 refugees on board was sent to the port of Catania on Monday evening. At least, Italian ports are open to Italian rescue ships.

Over the past five years, more than 600,000 people have crossed the water to get to Italy from Africa; mainly they come from Libya. The Italian authorities believe that at least half a million migrants are still on the peninsula. Not surprisingly, the right-wing League has raised the issue of refugees as the main issue in the March election campaign, despite the fact that the previous government managed to sharply reduce the number of uninvited guests in the past year.

"France deploys migrants on the border, Spain protects its border with weapons, Malta also does not accept anyone," Matteo Salvini commented on the decision not to receive refugees. "From now on, Italy will also start saying "No" to illegal migration."

source: bbc.co.uk