Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini (League) threatened Sunday to “block European activities,” following a heated exchange with Malta, whom he accuses of helping migrants arrive in Italy. “We have proven that we know how to defend our borders, and we will eventually prove that we can also block EU budgets and activities as long as the EU and certain countries continue to scorn the Italians,” Matteo Salvini said Sunday in Milan.
He reacted in the wake of a heated exchange the day before in Malta, whom he accused of helping migrants land on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
“Malta has helped a boat with 13 migrants on board by providing life jackets, water and a compass,” Mr. Salvini said, evoking a “hostile act by another EU country,’’ after the incident that occurred in October at the Franco-Italian border.
Mr. Salvini had then blown up against operations aiming at the turning back of migrants during which French police had entered Italian territory, in the Alpine village of Claviere.
“Liars. There are liars in the French and Maltese governments, and some absent-minded people in the EU Commission,” Mr. Salvini said.
According to a Ministry of the Interior’s source, quoted by Italian media, the boat that had arrived in Lampedusa Friday had been flagged the previous night in the Maltese search and rescue area (SAR) by an aircraft of the Italian financial coast guard. On their arrival in Lampedusa, the 13 people (ten Tunisians and three from the Horn of Africa) recounted the incident, and “according to investigators, there are indications that this testimony is credible,” as per the same source.
Mr. Salvini “should understand that boats at sea are not always in distress, and if the people on board do not want to be rescued, no authority in the rescue area can prevent them from continuing their journey,” Maltese Minister of Interior, Michael Farrugia, retorted in a tweet.
He further accused Rome of “not having met international obligations and agreements relating to the search and rescue zone.”
Matteo Salvini replied that “Italy has welcomed 700,000 immigrants during these recent years.” “No one should dare to lecture us, and Malta least of all,” he said.