Thursday, June 7, 2018

Italy's new gov't moving fast in speaking out against refugees, asylum seekers

Salvini has vowed to expel as many as 500,000 migrants from the country
Less than a week into the mandate of Italy's newest government, officials are already raising eyebrows for the hardline stance they are taking against refugees.

The anti-migrant stance is not a surprise. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League -- one of the two parties supporting the government and the country's new minister of the interior -- promised as much during the campaign. But the language from the new government is so far stronger and more pointed than on other controversial planks of its government program.

"It is very worrying," Filippo Miraglia, vice-president of the Italian Cultural Recreation Association (ARCI) and the author of the book "Refugees: Conversations About Borders, Politics, and Rights," told Xinhua. "The government is striking quickly to essentially criminalize being a refugee."

In his first weekend in his new job, Salvini traveled to the Sicilian port city of Pozzallo, home of a major reception center for refugees.

He said that recent at-sea deaths of would-be refugees trying to reach Italy's shores should have been prevented by not allowing the boats they use to leave the shores of Africa. Salvini told reporters that Italy "cannot be Europe's refugee camp."

Salvini said if the European Union (EU) does not do more to help Italy confront the refugee problem, Italy would be forced to "choose other methods."

In another rally in northern Italy, Salvini said illegal migrants to Italy should "get ready to pack (their) bags."

Salvini has vowed to expel as many as 500,000 migrants from the country. More than 600,000 migrants are thought to have landed on Italian shores since 2014. Though the numbers have been falling since the start of last year, nearly 11,000 are thought to have arrived so far in 2018 and more than 100,000 arrived last year. Thousands have died at sea attempting to reach Italy.

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