“If governments do their job, the dirty business of illegal immigration can be stopped,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced Sunday.
In an enthusiastic tweet, Salvini, the 45-year-old leader of the League party, said that the Italian Coast Guard had successfully saved the lives of 40 African migrants over the weekend by rescuing them at sea and taking them back to Libya.
“Willing is being able, I am all in,” Salvini concluded.
Salvini also posted a video on his Facebook page Monday in which he expresses his hope that recent attempts to shuttle migrants across the Strait of Sicily represent the “last gasps” of human traffickers and that this will be “the last summer of tragedies in the Mediterranean.”
Mi auguro che questi siano gli ultimi colpi di coda degli scafisti e che questa sia l’ultima estate di tragedie nel Mediterraneo. È finita la pacchia, STOP al business dei trafficanti di uomini.
Video completo https://t.co/lXr1bpR00O pic.twitter.com/ukliei73i9
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) July 23, 2018
Curiously, Mr. Salvini’s parting wish coincides exactly with a special appeal made by Pope Francis on Sunday, in which he, too, expressed his wish that the tragic migrant deaths in the Mediterranean would soon come to an end.
“Dramatic news of shipwrecks of barges laden with migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean have arrived over these last weeks,” the pope said following his weekly Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square. “I express my sorrow in the face of such tragedies and assure my thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families.”
Although Salvini and the pope do not see eye to eye on the immigration question, with Salvini pushing for an end to illegal immigration and Francis pressing for a more “welcoming” attitude toward economic migrants, they seem to have connected in a will to bring an end to migrant deaths.
The question remains how best this can be accomplished, but for the moment it would seem that Salvini has the upper hand.
As Breitbart News has reported, recent immigration data released by both the UNHCR and IOM show a remarkable correlation between curbing immigration and curbing migrant deaths.
Over the first half of 2018, migrant deaths in the Mediterranean have dropped dramatically, at the same time that populist leaders have sent the message that borders are no longer open to economic migrants.
The diminished presence of migrants on the seas has logically meant far fewer deaths.
As of the first week of July, migrant sea deaths in the Mediterranean numbered 1,058, less than half the 2,258 sea deaths registered during the same six-month period of 2017.
Italy’s immigration numbers have undergone a similar sharp decline, thanks in part to its new populist government, and figures for the first half of the year reflect an 80 percent decline over the same period of 2017.
According to data released earlier this month by the United Nations immigration agency (UNHCR), a total of 16,919 migrants arrived by sea into Italy prior to July 8, whereas over the same period in 2017 a total of 85,197 migrants had arrived.
The correlation between immigration figures and migrant deaths at sea becomes still more apparent when prior years are taken into account.
The total number of migrants lost at sea reached its highest point in 2016, with 4,578 migrants believed to be either dead or missing. That year also marked the highest number of migrants arriving across the Mediterranean onto Italian shores, a total of 181,436, UNHCR reported.
In this light, Salvini’s tightened immigration policies would seem to be a much more effective remedy to migrant sea deaths than fanciful calls for open borders and open ports.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome