Two important officials of Italy’s center-right have called for more serious measures against the waves of migrants arriving on Italian shores, after a French minister warned of a “major risk” of jihadists mingling amidst the migrants arriving into Italy.
Senator Maurizio Gasparri, a leader of the Forza Italia Party who made international news when he said that Al-Qaeda was “happier” after Obama’s election to the White House, has called for the closure of Italy’s maritime borders.
“While Islamic terrorism is committing massacres in Damascus and in deep Africa with Boko Haram, the news that Lampedusa could be welcoming terrorists should prompt our government to close the maritime borders. Instead, they continue to welcome immigrants into Italy,” Gasparri said in criticism of the Renzi government.
“Islamists in Libya have reportedly acquired chemical weapons, and their coasts do nothing to stop departures to our country. We need to change course and carry out massive deportations, as Sweden has announced they will do. But first, we must prevent the arrival of more people into our country,” he said.
Similar measures were proposed by Giorgia Meloni, the Vice-President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, who called for a naval blockade along the Libyan coast.
Meloni harshly criticized the Renzi government for “repeating the mantra that ‘there are no terrorists on the boats,’” adding that “the irresponsibility and incompetence of our government is putting all Italians in danger.”
The minister called the Italian government’s open immigration policy “insane” and called instead for “a naval blockade off the coast of Libya,” along with military intervention if necessary to support the government of national unity in the north African country.
Meloni said it was high time to end the “indiscriminate acceptance” of migrants, reiterating Gasparri’s call for the “expulsion and repatriation of those not entitled to stay in Italy.”
On Sunday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of the risk of Islamic State terrorists hiding among migrants traveling from Libya to Italy. In an interview on French television, Le Drian recalled that Libya is just a couple hundred miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa and that with growing numbers of Islamic State fighters in Libya the danger of infiltration has become serious.
The French minister said there was a “major risk” that with the coming of better Mediterranean weather, ISIL jihadists will make the crossing by mingling amongst the migrants.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome