Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, said Tuesday that 49 asylum seekers rescued in the Mediterranean will not be allowed to enter the country.
“They can be treated, dressed and fed,” Salvini told Italian news channel SkyTG24. “We can give them any kind of comfort, but they will not set foot in Italy with my permission.”
“The ports have been and remain CLOSED,” he tweeted.
His office also released an eight-page directive, which called the “passage of rescue ships in Italian territorial waters . . . detrimental to the order and security of the Italian State.” (This particular ship, the Mare Jonio, is stationary, and has not been “authorized to disembark,” according to Italian wire service ANSA.)
Salvini also said that other European countries should do more for asylum seekers, a reminder that Salvini became interior minister after an influx of migrants and asylum seekers. (The influx is not quite as many as Italians think — Italians reportedly believe immigrants make up 26 percent of the population, and not the 9 percent they actually do, according to economist Tito Boeri.) European Union rules leaving the countries of entry to determine who is qualified for political asylum meant that Italy, along with Spain and Greece, were left to grapple with an influx of refugees in a way other European countries were not.
But Salvini, who is the leader of the anti-migrant League party (and who was instrumental into turning the separatist Northern League into a national anti-migrant party), said in his directive that ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean do not have the right to Italian ports or to Italy.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment.
“But maritime law is clear,” tweeted Vincent Cochetel, special envoy of the United Nations’ refugee agency for the Central Mediterranean situation. “Libya is not a place of safety (Maritime Safety Committee, 167 (78). Italy and other Med countries are places of safety.”