Wednesday 20 February 2019

Salvini dubbed 'minister from hell' for evicting migrants on to streets

Matteo Salvini. Photo: Reuters
Matteo Salvini. Photo: Reuters

Nick Squires

Italy's populist coalition has come under intense criticism for removing migrants from the country's second-largest reception centre, amid concern that some will end up living on the streets.

The migrants, some of them in tears, were reportedly given no notice about their removal from the reception centre at Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome.

They will be transferred to other centres hundreds of kilometres away, in the southern regions of Campania and Basilicata.

The reception centre is due to be closed at the end of the month as part of a controversial reform of Italy's migrant reception system by the populist government, which came to power last June.

A security decree passed by the government last month seeks to drastically reduce the number of migrants receiving "humanitarian protection" and make it easier to expel them.

Around 30 migrants were removed on Tuesday and the operation was continuing yesterday, with another 75 due to be moved.

Some migrants chose to leave the centre of their own accord and were seen heading to Rome, where many asylum seekers end up living in squats and abandoned buildings.

An MP from the left-wing Free and Equal party stood in front of one of the buses taking migrants away, blocking it temporarily. Politicians from the opposition, centre-left Democratic Party accused Matteo Salvini, the hardline interior minister, of orchestrating an operation "that recalls the Nazi concentration camps".

"We're unhappy and we're worried. We ask that they not be treated like cattle," Manuel Torres, a local parish priest, said.

In a tweet directed at Mr Salvini and his coalition partner Luigi di Maio, who both hold the position of deputy prime minister in the coalition, he wrote: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Monica Cirinna, a senator from the Democratic Party, said: "These are the first poisoned fruits produced by the security decree."

She called Mr Salvini "il ministro del inferno" - the minister from hell - using a play on words of his official title in Italian, "ministro del interno", or interior minister.

But Mr Salvini dismissed the criticism, claiming the migrant centre cost €6m a year to operate. "Salvini is deporting children, migrants, he's a racist, a fascist, a Nazi," he wrote in a sarcastic social media post. "Lies of galactic proportions."

Migrants who have their requests for asylum granted will be allowed to stay in Italy while the others will be sent back to their home countries, he said.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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