Italy’s Salvini Jets to Libya, Negotiates Deal to Stop Illegal Migrants at Country’s Southern Border

Salvini
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

Italy’s new anti-establishment Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini jetted to Libya to strike a deal with the UN-backed government to combat people-smugglers and illegal immigration Monday.

Salvini, who leads the Lega party which forms one half of Italy’s new populist coalition government and acts as its minister of the interior, shared the details of his visit on his Facebook page, which he uses to reach millions of supporters directly.

“I am proud to have chosen Libya as the first official overseas visit as the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy… to confront the whole problem of undercover illegal immigration from Libya to Italy,” Salvini declared.

“The Italian government will uphold the need to protect the frontiers to the south of Libya, because neither Italy nor Libya can be alone in shouldering the burden of this illegal immigration,” he insisted.

“We, the Libyans, we agree amongst us on so many things with the Europeans and our partners regarding the illegal immigration, but we categorically refuse the presence of any migrant camps in Libya,” added Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq.

The pair’s plans to establish reception centres to process asylum claims on Libya’s southern border appear to have completely outmanoeuvred proposals by France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and the European Union establishment, who have been suggesting reception centres either in southern Europe or on the Mediterranean coast in northern Libya.

“There are European countries, including France, which propose the creation of hotspots of reception in Italy: this would be a problem for us and for Libya itself, because death flows [to Libya and Italy] would not be interrupted,” Salvini explained in a Facebook post.

“Instead, we have proposed reception centres at the borders south of Libya to prevent [Libya] from becoming a funnel [for illegal migration], like Italy.”

“We believe that is should be only the Libyan authorities who patrol Libyan waters, and [support] blocking the way to non-governmental organisations that want to substitute, replace governments, and to help illegal immigrants,” Salvini said at his conference with Maiteeq, in reference to the so-called ‘rescue’ charities which have been picking up migrants in the waters off North Africa in order to bring them to European ports — often racing to beat Libyan coast guard vessels to do so.

“Let the Libyan authorities do their work of rescue, recovery and return [of migrants] to their country, as they have been doing for some time, without the ships of the voracious NGOs disturbing them or causing trouble,” he added later.

“Italian ports are and will be closed to those who aid human traffickers.”

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