Six EU countries are ready to welcome some of the 147 migrants on the humanitarian ship of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, currently in front of the Italian island of Lampedusa, at the moment when the authority of Matteo Salvini, holding 'a hard line towards migrants, is disputed.
"France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg have just told me that they are ready to receive migrants," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday in a letter open letter addressed to Matteo Salvini, the ubiquitous Italian Minister of the Interior. Portugal has indicated that it is ready to take ten passengers.
"Once again, my European counterparts are reaching out to us," said Mr Conte, attacking Mr Salvini, who has been calling for his dismissal for a week.
Criticizing Mr. Salvini's "obsessive concentration" on the topic of "reduced to formula + closed ports", he accused him of "unfair collaboration".
Giuseppe Conte had written Wednesday to ask him to authorize the only landing of the 32 miners present aboard the Open Arms. But he accused Salvini of distorting his remarks.
The head of the Italian government said he had fought alongside him for "a European mechanism" that would be "almost automatic" to redistribute migrants in all European countries. This "to prevent first landing countries like Italy from being abandoned to themselves".
"My obsession is to fight any type of crime, including illegal immigration.I am a minister to defend the borders, security, honor, dignity of my country," Salvini said in writing.
"With me the ports are and will remain closed to traffickers and their foreign accomplices," he insisted. "And it is clear that without this firmness, the European Union would never have lifted a finger, leaving Italy and the Italians alone".
The power of Matteo Salvini, head of the League (far right) and deputy prime minister, is weakened since it shattered last Thursday its government alliance, formed for 14 months with the Movement Five Stars (M5S , anti-system). The fate of the ship Open Arms was the illustration Thursday.
Italian Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli have not signed the Interior Minister's new decree to prevent the Open Arms from returning to Italy's territorial waters.
These two ministers are members of the Five Stars Movement (M5S, anti-system), a training that obviously does not intend to follow his orders after being released.
Salvini signed a decree in early August prohibiting Italian waters at the Open Arms in the name of defending public order.
A decision by an administrative court, following an appeal by Open Arms, however, suspended Wednesday the first decree. In the wake, Matteo Salvini had signed a new decree to block the road to the boat. No effect, without the signatures of the other two ministers.
-Ocean Viking: heading north
"Politics can never lose sight of humanity," said Elisabetta Trenta on Thursday in her statement
On the social networks that he likes, Matteo Salvini also sharply retorted: "humanity does not mean helping traffickers and NGOs".
"It is thanks to this presumed concept + of humanity that in the years of democratic government, Italy has become the refugee camp of Europe," he said.
Mr Salvini is credited with 36 to 38% of voting intentions and his popularity has been fueled by his hard line on illegal migrants. Still, a political front is being formed against him, unexpectedly through an alliance between his ex-partner M5S and the Democratic Party (center left).
The Ocean Viking, the SOS Mediterranean ship and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which is also looking for a port for more than 350 migrants, was headed north on Thursday and was far beyond Lampedusa and Malta.
© 2019 AFP