Italy’s former liberal PM suddenly feels ‘no moral duty’ to take migrants
Europe's liberal facade took a big hit on Friday, when Italy's former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and head of the ruling leftwing Democratic Party, said his country no longer has "any moral duty to take in migrants".
Published: July 9, 2017, 10:16 am
The surging influx of migrants is a result of German leader, Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy which she was forced to halt, after discovering belatedly that integration was much more difficult than expected and is costing her coalition votes.
The migrant arrivals in Italy has spiked with 20 percent compared to the same period last year. Rome meanwhile has threatened to either close its ports to privately-funded aid boats, rumoured to belong to Soros-linked organisations, or punish EU countries which fail to assist in taking in a share of the migrants, the website Zerohedge reported.
On Friday Renzi said only a “fixed number” of migrants should be allowed into the country as waves of Africans continue to arrive by sea. “There has to be a fixed number of arrivals. We should not feel guilty if we are not able to welcome everyone,” Renzi said in a video posted on his party’s website.
Italy’s angry interior minister Marco Minniti had earlier lashed out at other EU members: “They are sailing under the flags of various European countries. If the only ports where refugees are taken to are Italian, something is not working. This is the heart of the question.”
The Balkan corridor is currently closed, and Italy has emerged as the only port of entry into Europe. “More than 600 000 migrants have reached Italy over the past four years, the vast majority arriving by boat from Libya. About 85 000 have come ashore this year alone, accounting for the vast majority of European migrant arrivals,” Zerohedge noted.
The growing resentment in Europe toward migrants, was labelled “populism” by the establishment. Renzi has now embraced “populism” too: “We have to save everyone, but we are not able to welcome everyone into Italy,” he said.
“There has to be a fixed number of arrivals,” he said, adding that Italy should help migrants in their home countries, repeating essentially what Italy’s anti-immigrant parties have already proposed.
“If someone is at risk of drowning, obviously we have a duty to save him,” wrote Renzi. “But we do not have a moral duty to take him in,” the ex-premier wrote in Democratica, the party’s online magazine. Letting everyone in indiscriminately “would be an ethical, political, social and ultimately economic disaster,” Renzi continued.
On Thursday, the former premier also suggested Italy should withhold EU payments from reticent partner countries. “Let us cut financing to countries who don’t respect accords on migrants. They shut down European ports? We block European funds,” Renzi tweeted on July 6. Renzi’s article was an excerpt from his book Avanti! [Forward!], due out next week.
“Cap on migrant numbers. Renzi under fire: he’s like Salvini,” La Stampa, the national daily’s headline read. Renzi is chasing supporters of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party. Salvini’s party made strong gains in local elections across Italy last month, which saw the Democratic Party lose key strongholds.
“Let’s help migrants in their own homes. Controversy over Renzi’s phrase, which resembles a League slogan,” wrote La Repubblica daily paper. Corriere della Sera daily similarly titled their headline: “Let’s help migrants in their own homes, Renzi’s new slogan sets internet alight.”
“Renzi chases the rightwing on xenophobic grounds in hopes of picking up votes,” Senator Loredana De Petris from the small opposition Italian Left (SI) party tweeted on Friday.
Renzi’s hypocritical comments were swiftly removed from the website, but not before they had generated a considerable backlash among his own supporters and much laughter from conservatives.
As Reuters pointed out, the biggest winner from Renzi’s unexpected moments of honesty, was Salvini who posted the deleted text on his own Twitter account. “Thanks for all the work. We will take it,” Salvini tweeted. “They (the PD) chatter and get embarrassed about it, while we can’t wait to actually do it.”
Last month, Renzi’s PD party lost 30 municipalities, including the traditional leftist stronghold of Genoa in northern Italy, with the migrant crisis increasingly weighing on the government.
Meanwhile, adding insult and injury to hypocrisy, Former European Commissioner for humanitarian affairs, Emma Bonino, caused embarrassment in PD ranks this week when she revealed that Renzi’s government had requested in 2014 that all the migrants leaving Libya be brought to Italy.
“At the beginning, we didn’t realize that this was a structural problem and not a passing phase. We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Bonino, a former Italian foreign minister. Renzi denied her claims on Friday.
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