Matteo Salvini opposes new migrant arrivals in Italy despite relocation agreement

The Italian home affairs minister’s comments were made soon after Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced Italy was one of eight EU countries part of an ad hoc agreement for the relocation of 224 rescued migrants

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he remained against the arrival of more migrants in Italy
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he remained against the arrival of more migrants in Italy

Italian Home Affairs minister Matteo Salvini has slammed an agreement reached between nine EU member states for the relocation of 224 rescued migrants.

The agreement follows an almost three-week standoff which saw a group of 49 migrants stranded on board two NGO rescue vessels just off Malta's coast.

The agreement, which was announced on Wednesday by Muscat, will see the migrants shared between Malta, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Germany, France, Romania, Ireland and the Netherlands and will also see 44 Bangladeshi nationals rescued by Malta repatriated.

"Whether it is eight or 88 I will not authorise the entry of anyone into Italy. I was not consulted," Salvini told journalists in Poland where he is on a visit.

In tweets, he reiterated that he was "totally opposed to new arrivals in Italy". Salvini tweeted that he will continue working to expel the "many illegal immigrants" already in Italy.

“Giving in to pressure and threats by Europe and the NGOs is a sign of weakness that Italians do not deserve,” he tweeted.

Since being elected, Salvini has overseen a change in Italy’s policy on migration, with the country having declared its ports closed to all NGO vessels.

Addressing a press conference announcing the agreement, Muscat thanked nations that had agreed to take a share of the migrants for their solidarity.

Muscat said he was thankful to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for taking a leadership role in this situation.

He said that the individual countries had made written pledges with the European Commission but declined from indicating how many migrants each was willing to take.

The Prime Minister also refused to comment on the discord within the Italian government over the migration issue, insisting that Italy had made a written pledge as part of the ad hoc agreement.

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