Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is calling for a “tough response” to the United Nations, and hinting that Italy may reassess its contributions after the body criticized Italy’s policies toward migrants from Africa.
Salvini, who also serves as minister of the interior in Italy’s coalition government, wrote to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte Wednesday calling criticism by U.N. officials “inappropriate pitch invasions in a pre-election period,” according to ANSA.
In a May 15 letter to the Italian government, investigators from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights took aim at a draft security decree that seeks to close Italian ports to NGOs that rescue migrants — calling it a “political attempt to criminalize search and rescue organizations.”
The U.N. office also claims that the decree “further intensifies the climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants" and claims it would violate migrants' human rights, and that Italy is obliged to help migrants in distress.
But in the letter to Conte, obtained by Il Giornale, Salvini said it is “obvious that we are in the presence of an undue interference in the political and normative activity of our government” from forces “intolerant of the new course given to national migration policies.”
Italian Interior-Minister and Deputy-Premier Matteo Salvini meets reporters at the Interior Ministry headquarters in Rome, Monday, May 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
He also noted the timing of the letter, which was published in news outlets a week before the European Parliament elections that took place last week.
Salvini told Conte that the interior and foreign ministries are preparing a response to the letter, and also requested details about Italy’s financial contribution to the U.N., which he suggested could be reconsidered. The Foreign Ministry had previously said the letter from the U.N. carried no judicial weight.
Salvini’s aggressive stance toward the U.N. comes on the heels of a significant win for his League in the recent Euro elections, where League took more than a third of the vote and became the biggest party in Italian politics.
Salvini’s rise to become the de facto leader of the coalition government has been fueled by his tough stance on rescue boats that pick up migrants from Libya. He has feuded with not only the U.N. but also European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron. He also faced legal challenges in the courts, including charges of kidnapping for his refusal to allow a boat of 177 migrants to land in Italy last year. However, Senate lawmakers blocked the case from proceeding.
“I do not change my mind! “ he tweeted in April. “For the good of the Italians, with me the ports are and remain CLOSED!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.