Since 2015, #Europe saw multiple shipwrecks as small dinghy boats overloaded with desperate #refugees capsized in the #Mediterranean Sea, often killing those on board. Larger rescue vessels were allotted to save the refugees from such fate but policies of the ministers of the coastal countries, like Matteo Salvini of #Italy, made it impossible for rescue vessels to operate.
#Salvini, then Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and the Interior Minister, had propagated the anti-refugee stance since the beginning of the immigration of #Syrian refugees in 2014. Leader of the party #LegaNord, Salvini had continuously defied the #EU’s regulations on accepting #asylumseekers and allowing them to find safe ground in the Italian ports. Salvini had referred to the rescue vessels as ‘traffickers’ and ‘kidnappers’.
While the Mediterranean saw the deaths of thousands of asylum seekers crossing over to Europe, Salvini asked for a naval blockade to block ‘smugglers’ from entering European soil.
Salvini’s policy to deny protection to refugees on humanitarian grounds other than war or political persecution, famously known as the ‘Salvini Decree’, was passed by the Italian parliament with a majority. At the same time, he announced the closure of ports to vessels carrying asylum seekers.
A rescue vessel named #Aquarius, carrying over 600 asylum seekers was blocked from entering the Italian ports due to Salvini’s orders in 2018. In June 2019, Sea Watch 3 docked at #Lampedusa despite Salvini’s ban. He accused the ship’s captain #CarolaRackete of sinking an Italian border guard ship. Rackete was arrested as a result, but soon the court ruled that she broke no law.
A hard Eurosceptic, Salvini has claimed that he “can be in a pro-Europe government while dreaming of a different Europe”, also stating he “[refuses] to think of substituting 10 million Italians with 10 million migrants”. As the present Leader of the Opposition, Salvini continues to criticise the Italian government’s immigration policy and the EU’s Common Asylum policies.