Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been reported for instigating "race hatred", sources said on Friday. Salvini, who has taken a hard line on migrants, was reported by a group of Italian citizens for statements he made in June and July, according to legal sources.
They cited statements including “the happy days for clandestine immigrants are over, get ready to pack your bags, in a well-mannered and tranquil way, but they must go home”.
He was reported in Treviso. The Interior Minister is now under investigation, with prosecutors considering possible charges of “illegal arrest”, “holding migrants hostage” and “abuse of office”.
Salvini has also recently called migrants “gym-honed”.
The probe against Salvini for allegedly kidnapping 177 Eritrean migrants aboard the Diciotti coast guard ship will be a “boomerang”, Salvini said on Monday.
An Agrigento prosecutor has placed Salvini under investigation for kidnapping the migrants, who were allegedly unlawfully held for five days at sea and then another five days at Catania harbour.
He shrugged off the political machinations by his opponents and said he was not “cowed” and that he would not ask the Senate to refuse to lift his immunity. “I only did my job as minister and I’m ready to do it again,” Salvini said.
Three Egyptians and a Bangladeshi have been meanwhile arrested on charges of being the migrant traffickers.
Most of the Eritrean migrants from the Diciotti will be moved from a Messina hotspot to a Catholic Church centre at Ariccia near Rome, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) told a news agency on Monday.
“They will be moved as soon as possible, in the coming hours, to the Ariccia centre run by Auxiluim, pending their transfer to the many diocese who have given their availability: Turin, Brescia, Bologna, Agrigento, Cassano all’Jonio, Rossano Calabro, to cite only those I know about,” CEI’s head of social communications, Father Ivan Maffeis, told the SIR religious news agency.
Salvini had kept the migrants aboard saying they would not land until the EU agreed to take them.
On Monday, Salvini also hailed Australia’s arresting the first boat people who have managed to get there for four years. The boat people reached Australia from Vietnam as Australia’s No Way naval blockade against migrants – which Salvini says he wants to emulate – showed its first weakness since 2014.
The migrants were promptly arrested.
Salvini said “this is the model I want to arrive at! “Long live the civilised and serious Australia”.
Italy’s threat to withhold some of its alleged 20 billion euro EU budget payment unless the EU agreed to take in the Diciotti migrants, was harshly criticised by Germany. According to German authorities, funding the EU budget is an obligation laid down in the EU’s founding treaties.
EU budget funding “was ratified in the European treaties, and it is valid for all,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.
But Luigi Di Maio, the leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement, has defended his coalition partner Salvini, even though Salvini refused to let migrants on a rescue ship disembark in Italy last week. He said the government was defending Italy’s interests.
Previously, the Five Star Movement had insisted that those under investigation would be ineligible for office.
But in comments published on Monday, Di Maio defended Salvini saying that there “is a difference between a politician investigated while acting in the interests of the nation and parliamentarians investigated for corruption”.
Matteo Salvini; Luigi Di Maio. Photo supplied
Di Maio, noted that in the next such case Italy “will negotiate directly with individual States”. He said the EU must change its tune on migrants or Italy’s budget veto will be “certain”.
European Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Monday said that Italy does not pay 20 billion euros a year to the EU budget, but 14-16 billion.
“Taking into account what it receives from the EU budget that leaves a net contribution of three billion a year,” Oettinger said.
Di Maio called Oettinger’s response a “farce” that “shows what consideration they have of our country. They’re evidently used to Italian premiers and ministers going cap in hand to Brussels”.
“Funding is not a dogma,” said Di Maio, who is also industry and labour minister. “The music in Europe is going to change,” he said, saying that soon there would be talk of “real solidarity and not restrictions that are unsustainable from both the social and economic standpoint”.
After unsuccessful negotiations between the EU and Italy over the migrant vessel on Friday in Brussels, the crisis was resolved on Saturday when Italy agreed to allow the 150 migrants to disembark.
Many will be accommodated in Italy by the Catholic Church. Some 100 of the migrants will go to a Catholic centre at Rocca di Papa near Rome, Pope Francis said. Ireland will take another twenty.
Even Albania agreed to take in 20 migrants, the first time the Mediterranean country has participated in a reallocation. The prime minister of Albania Edi Rama called Italy “the most welcoming country of the last 30 years” to migrants.
The migrant problem has become so severe in the country, that Italians overestimate the presence of migrants in their country more than any other nationality in the EU, according to a survey by think tank Istituto Cattaneo released on Monday.
The study on the phenomenon of immigration in Italy and its perception said those polled overestimated the presence of migrants by 18 percent.
Immigrants in Italy account for roughly 8 percent of the overall population. The poll also found that 74 percent of the Italians interviewed were convinced that immigrants were responsible for higher crime rates against a European average of 57 percent.
A reported 58 percent of those interviewed for the survey also said they thought more immigration would imply fewer jobs for residents in Italy against a European average of about 14 percent.
There are “points of convergence” between Italy and Hungary on immigration policy, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on the eve of Tuesday’s meeting between Premier Viktor Urban and Salvini. Szijjarto said “the defence of Europe’s borders consists in managing immigration.
“Hungary has already demonstrated that land borders can be defended. Australia and Italy have shown that maritime borders can be defended too”.
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