Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has spoken out Thursday against the current rate of migrant deportations in Italy, claiming that it would take 50 years to expel a backlog of 500,00 illegal immigrants unless more than 10,000 migrants are deported per year, reports ANSA.
In an impromptu meeting with other EU officials, he stressed the time sensitivity of the migrant issue. Although Salvini made clear that he prefers a peaceful resettlement process for asylum seekers, he leans toward more aggressive deportation procedures after hundreds of additional migrants arriving by boat in the past months have exacerbated problem by overwhelming border control authorities and increasing the backlog.
“If arrivals in Europe are reduced there will be no problem at the internal borders of the EU and we can continue to work peacefully among peoples as we intend to do,” said Salvini, Express reports.
Salvini’s comments on the migrant issue were preceded by his controversial decision to prevent NGO boats carrying rescued migrants from docking in Italian ports. A tough critic of the clandestine immigration taking place in Europe’s southern border, Salvini has justifies his policy by asserting a Italy-First stance, saying that “Italy cannot become Europe’s refugee camp.” While this no-landing policy was the norm of his predecessors, Salvini is more flagrant in his enforcement of the matter and has recruited allies across the European Union to more effectively combat this issue.
“I have to do everything I can to protect the people who live in this country …. Nobody will ever change my view that the fight against human trafficking and clandestine immigration is one of this country’s primary objectives,” Salvini said on RTL radio on Friday.
Salvini’s hardline immigration policy was recently overruled by the Italian prime minister in a case involving a docked NGO boat in Sicily containing rescued migrants. This overruling was prompted by pressure from the Italian president and NGOs. This is significant because the President is largely a ceremonial figure and his foray into this matter makes it an exceptional circumstance. Salvini reacted with “regret and amazement” to the president’s intervention.
“If someone does it in my place, he will assume the judicial, moral and political responsibility for it,” Salvini comments on the migrant policy overruling, Reuters reports.