Italy’s indomitable interior minister Matteo Salvini said Tuesday he is “proud” to have put an end to illegal immigration in Italy.
“You enter Italy by saying ‘May I come in’ and ‘Please,’” Mr. Salvini said in a Tweet to his followers, explaining that by combatting illegal immigration he was also fighting human trafficking and the drug trade.
Decrying smugglers and human traffickers, Salvini said he had evidence that “with the money they make—around 3,000 euro for every person they put on the boat—they buy arms and drugs. So stopping the trafficking of human beings does not just mean stopping immigration, but it also means blocking weapon and drug trafficking.”
“So as long as you keep saying, ‘it’s the last boatload, it’s the last boatload, it’s the last boatload,’ the smugglers continue doing their dirty and criminal work,” he said in a television interview he attached to his Tweet.
“My objective, as we are already doing, is to invest money in Africa because I recall that with six euros a day you can give a child room, board, education, healthcare,” he said.
Asked by the television interviewer why the European Union has not adopted this commonsense approach, Salvini said that there are other interests at work.
“First, some people benefit from mass immigration,” Salvini said. “For example, before I arrived, there was an immigration budget of six billion euros. How many people ate out of this trough?”
Many came forward saying what kind and generous people they were, asking for government funding so they could assist the migrants, Salvini noted.
“No, you are not kind and generous, you are a thief, because you exploit these people to your advance own business,” he said.
“Also, in Europe there are certain leftist governments who believe that everybody has a right to go anywhere and there should be no borders,” he added.
“I am interested in what I have done for Italy and for the Italians,” the minister concluded. “I am proud of it. It has cost me I don’t know how many legal complaints; I don’t care, as long as I am interior minister, you come into Italy only by asking permission and saying ‘please.’”
Despite harsh criticism and name-calling from the Catholic hierarchy in the country, Mr. Salvini is immensely popular among rank-and-file Catholics.
Last Sunday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released the results of a survey, just before its annual summit in Davos, showing that more than two thirds of Italians consider immigration to be “mostly bad” for the country.
“The rise of populism, nationalism and protectionism are all associated with waning support for globalization,” WEF acknowledges on its website.
Another recent poll revealed that only a small minority of Italians (19 percent) would like the government to reopen the country’s closed ports to migrants.
Only 12 percent of those surveyed say that it is the responsibility of individual states in whose territorial waters the migrant ships have arrived to resolve the situation.
A significant majority of Italians (64 percent) are favorable to Matteo Salvini’s decision to close the country’s ports, and this preference spans all social segments regardless of gender, age, educational qualifications, employment status, or religious faith, including Catholics who regularly attend mass, the poll found.
Last February, a Europe-wide survey revealed widespread concern over illegal immigration with more than three-quarters of EU citizens saying that Europe’s external borders should be more tightly controlled.
While 78 percent of all Europeans believe that illegal immigration into their countries is a problem, more citizens in every single European country say that it is a “serious problem” than say it is not a problem or not a very serious problem, the poll found.
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