Home » Giorgia Meloni: Italy’s new PM takes aim at migrant boats in debut speech

Giorgia Meloni: Italy’s new PM takes aim at migrant boats in debut speech

by Mahmmod Shar


Italy’s new far-right leader, Giorgia Meloni, has used her maiden speech to MPs to stress her aim to halt migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean.

“We must stop illegal departures and human trafficking,” she said, repeating a campaign pledge to stop boats heading to Italy from North Africa.

For years Italy has been a hub for irregular migrants heading for Europe.

More than 77,000 have made the highly dangerous crossing to Italy this year, putting pressure on local communities.

Ms Meloni, 45, leads the Brothers of Italy party and has come to power at the head of a right-wing coalition.

“We do not intend in any way to question the right of asylum for those fleeing wars and persecutions,” she told the lower house of parliament. “All we want to do in relation to immigration is to stop the people traffickers from having the choice of deciding who enters Italy.”

She said she felt the weight of being her country’s first female leader and used the English word “underdog” to describe herself, paying tribute to a broad range of Italian women who had gone before her to “break this ultimate glass ceiling”.

She was greeted with a standing ovation and cries of “Giorgia, Giorgia”.

Even though the Meloni government was only sworn in on Saturday, it has already reverted to a stance taken in 2018–19 by one of its parties, the far-right League.

Matteo Piantedosi, the new interior minister, threatened to close ports to two rescue boats carrying hundreds of migrants just before the prime minister spoke, claiming that the Ocean Viking and Humanity1 were breaking the law.

Mr. Piantedosi was instrumental in the earlier policy that forbade migrant-carrying rescue boats from docking in Italian ports. That ultimately led to the League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, facing charges of kidnapping and obstructing the arrival of the rescue vessel Open Arms carrying 147 migrants in Sicily in 2019.

In the meantime, the migrant helpline Alarm Phone reported on Tuesday that two boats carrying about 1,350 people, including women and children, had left the Libyan port of Tobruk and were now drifting in the Strait of Sicily. Before the Italian coast guard could rescue those on board, it was reported that two babies had passed away after the boat they were in left Tunisia.

A spokesperson for SOS Humanity, the organization that created Humanity1, told the BBC that they had not yet received any information about the Rome government’s new policy but emphasized that, according to the law of the sea, closing ports when people were rescued in distress violated international law.


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