Matteo Salvini, the head of the Right-wing League, became Interior Minister last week, and went to Sicily on Sunday to hammer home the anti-immigration message that brought him to power.
The most recent migrants to Italy arrived on Friday evening, only a few hours after Mr. Salvini took his oath of office: 158 people, including 9 children, arrived in Pozzallo, Sicily after being rescued off the coast of Libya by an NGO-operated ship, in coordination with the Italian Coast Guard.
“The good times for illegal immigrants are over; get ready to pack your bags,” Salvini pronounced Saturday night at a meeting in Vincenza. He also warned, “States must begin to do their duty, and no more smugglers should dock in Italian ports,” in a clear attack on the NGOs that help migrants at sea, which he regularly accuses of being guilty of cooperating with the smuggling networks.
Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the 5-Star Movement, has also criticized these NGOs as being the “taxis of the sea,” even if the rhetoric of his movement tends to be more moderate than that of the League regarding immigration.
To quickly find funds to fuel his deportation efforts, Salvini is calling for some of the five billion euros set aside each year by the previous government for the reception of migrants to be diverted to his project.