Populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had harsh words for French President Emmanuel Macron after French police confirmed they dropped off unwanted migrants in Italy, claiming it was a mistake.
Mr Salvini criticised the French after they claimed the migrants had been dropped off in the Italian town of Claviere by mistake, saying: “What happened to Claviere is an unprecedented offence against our country.”
“I wonder if international organisations do not find it sick to leave people in an isolated area, without assistance and without reporting it?” Salvini added, according to Il Giornale.
The remarks came after the French authorities in Hautes-Alpes claimed the entire affair was a mistake, saying: “The Gendarmes, who had arrived only a few days ago in the Hautes-Alpes, had little knowledge of the place and entered into Italian territory in circumstances that required clarification.”
Despite the claim, Salvini hit back, saying: “Abandoning immigrants in an Italian forest cannot be considered an error or an accident.”
“Who were these immigrants? Where did they come from? Why were they abandoned? And again: for civilian Paris, is it normal to dump people in the woods? Why do the French speak of ‘Gendarmes who did not know the way,’ if the van returned to their country at great speed and without hesitation?” he added.
Carabinieri officers out on patrol in Claviere on Friday claimed they saw a van from France drop off two men of African background in a wooded area near the town, and then headed back over the border to France.
Finding the van’s licence plate suspicious, the officers filmed the event and sent all of their documentation to the Turin public prosecutor who then opened an investigation.
The Italian officers have been on heightened patrols in the area following the recent eviction of a group of open-borders far-left activists from a church in the town who were helping facilitate illegal migration from Italy into France across the nearby mountain pass.
Addressing French President Macron directly Salvini added: “We are facing an international disgrace, and Mr Macron cannot pretend to be anything. We don’t accept excuses.”
Salvini: ‘Hypocrite’ Macron Should Either Shut His Mouth or Open His Borders https://t.co/5KT0eXd3Qp
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 31, 2018
“But if someone really thinks of using us as the refugee camp in Europe, violating laws, borders and agreements, he is wrong. We are ready to defend the honour and dignity of our country in every location and at all levels,” he added, and said that he would request “clarity” from the French ambassador.
The incident is set to raise already heightened tensions between the Italian populist government and French President Emmanuel Macron over immigration issues.
In late August, President Macron vowed to stand against Salvini and other anti-mass migration politicians and parties across the continent saying: “The right to asylum is in our constitution … it is enshrined in all of our European texts.”
In response, Mr Salvini labelled Macron a “hypocrite” and said: “From the beginning of 2017 to the present day, France of the ‘good Macron’ has rejected more than 48,000 immigrants at the borders with Italy, including women and children.”
“Would this be the ‘welcoming and supportive’ Europe that Macron and the good people talk about?”