Rabat – “The party is over for illegal migrants,” said Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Slavani during a rally on June 2 in Vicenza, referring to the country’s previously friendly attitude towards the more than 700,000 migrants reported to have landed in the European country in the last five years. He added, “[T]hey will have to pack their bags. Refugees escaping from war are welcome, but all others must leave.”
The remarks were made during one of the numerous tours that Mr. Slavani has held around the country since the June 1 formation of Italy’s new government coalition, comprising Matteo Slavani’s nationalist League party (Lega) and the populist Luigi Di Maio’s internet-propelled Five Star Movement (M5S).
In a 39-page document, the new coalition outlined its hawkish and nationalistic policies, including populist, eurosceptic, and anti-migration discourse. Taking inspiration directly from US President Donald Trump, the new Italian government has vowed to reclaim the country’s national sovereignty by implementing an “Italy first” policy.
Since the beginning of 2018, more than 13,000 migrants are said to have reached Italy, while the International Organization for Migration reports that in the past five years more 500,000 migrants have arrived. As the number of incoming migrants typically increases in summer, the Lega-M5S government has vowed to turn immigration centers into deportation centers, a move they say will help speed up the process of deporting all undocumented migrants from Italy.
Speaking on June 3 in Sicily, a major arrival point for migrants, Salvini expressed his frustration at Italy’s becoming “Europe’s refugee camp.” Instead of the open doors policy that has been prevailing for quite some time, the Lega leader promised that “deportation will be the new priority,” together with tougher border control and government-inspired changes to reclaim Italy’s lost “respect and sovereignty.”
“Open-doors in Italy is for the right people and a one-way ticket out for those who come here to make trouble and think that we will provide for them…”
“Enough of Sicily becoming the refugee camp of Europe. I will not stand by and do nothing while landing after landing of migrants [takes place]. There are not enough homes or jobs for Italians, let alone for half the African continent.”
Pledging to deport 500,000 migrants in the coming years, the new Interior Minister also accused Tunisia, the main point of departure for migrants who land in Italy, of “deliberately sending criminals” and trouble-makers to create problems for Italians.