The leader of Italy’s populist Northern League party has described the migrant crisis as an “invasion” that is being orchestrated by Brussels after European Union (EU)-backed NGOs were accused of working with people smugglers.
“You can’t any longer speak about immigration but about an invasion organised, funded and planned by Brussels with the complicity of Rome,” Matteo Salvini said Monday, according to ANSA.
On Twitter, Mr. Salvini also suggested Europe is “funding shipwrecks, mafia and Islamic terrorism” and called for border checks to be “moved to North Africa”.
Several NGOs and charities, some EU-funded, are now under investigation for allegedly exploiting migrants and colluding with people smugglers and the mafia. Some groups have been accused of arranging to meet migrant boats just a few miles off the African coast and taking bribes from criminals.
Italian prosecutors are already investigating one group and Trapani prosecutor Ambrogio Cartosio in May claimed that some NGOs were “perhaps” financed by traffickers and were potentially seeking to “destabilise the Italian economy”.
Other NGOs, such as the EU-backed S.O.S. Mediterranee, are not accused of criminality but have been criticised for running a “taxi services” from near the African coast and effectively encouraging illegal crossings.
The Aquarius rescue Ship run by NGO S.O.S. Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres arrives in the port of Salerno with 1004 migrants including 240 children rescued in the Mediterranean sea, on May 26 2017. (CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty)
According to ASNA, Mr. Salvini placed some blame on the Italian government, calling the ruling Democratic Party (PD) “an accomplice to this invasion along with the [left-wing] cooperatives and the pseudo-aid associations”.
Adding: “The calls from Brussels and Strasbourg for respecting the migrant programme are ridiculous.
“I’m waiting for elections so that Italy can defend its borders again. Give me the interior ministry for three months and you’ll see what order and efficiency I bring back from north to south all over Italy.
“I won’t wait for Strasbourg, nor Brussels or Merkel.”
In the first three months of 2017, Italy experienced a 30 per cent jump in immigration compared with the same period of 2016, despite the prior year’s record-breaking figures.
According to official reports, during 2016, only 2.65 per cent of those immigrating into Italy were awarded asylum as refugees, with the vast majority staying on in the country as illegal, undocumented immigrants.