The Ocean Viking reception affair was an opportunity for Italy to reaffirm at the European level its intention to stay the course in terms of firmness on immigration.
Matteo Piantedosi, the interior minister in Giorgia Meloni’s government, who is also Matteo Salvini’s former chief of staff, said he wanted to put an end to illegal immigration and counted on Europe to assist him in this heavy task. “We are not changing our mind about the hard line. Illegal immigration must be stopped, it is creating a strong feeling of insecurity,” he explained on his return from his first G7 meeting, held in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“No one should enter Italy illegally,” he said—a principle that is difficult to reconcile with international asylum law, which states that it does not matter how an asylum seeker enters a host territory as long as he’s seeking refuge. But the problem, according to Piantedosi, is not actually the asylum seekers. The interior minister points to the discrepancy between the number of migrants arriving in Italy—93,000 since the beginning of the year, an increase of 56% over last year—and the number of asylum applications: most migrants come for economic, not political, reasons, and therefore, in his view, have no right to be received in Italy.
The minister of the interior is calling for better cooperation between NGO ships, the countries whose flags they fly under, and the countries where the ‘Search and Rescue’ (SAR) procedure comes into effect. In the case of the Ocean Viking, Piantedosi says Libya and Malta should have been approached before Italy, with the cooperation of Norway, as the Ocean Viking flies the Norwegian flag.
The Italian government hopes to find a sympathetic ear with the European authorities. “Italy cannot be left alone; we need to show solidarity at the European level,” said EPP President Manfred Weber after a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who also exchanged views with European Council President Charles Michel in Bali on this matter.
In an interview with the newspaper Il Giornale, Piantedosi refused to see any ‘testing’ of the Meloni government by the international community on the migration issue: “For goodness sake: let’s forget about conspiracies. Immigration is an epochal phenomenon linked to the international context and the very serious economic and social conditions in which many populations find themselves.”
According to Piantedosi, the management of migratory flows must be accompanied by a real development aid plan in the countries of departure to give the candidates tempted by immigration the possibility of remaining in their native countries.
Following his meeting with his European counterparts, the minister feels confident. He said he received “many positive signals” in Wiesbaden.
Though under attack from the opposition in Italy, Piantedosi does not intend to be dissuaded but fully assumes to follow in the footsteps of Matteo Salvini, whose actions in the past he describes as “perfectly legitimate” and able to be proven as such by Italian justice.