Salvini blackmailing EU with anti-migrant policy?

After a week of delay an Italian coastguard ship carrying 177 migrants has been given permission to dock in Sicily. Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini had initially threatened to have the migrants brought back to Libya if other EU member states refused to take them in. Commentators find Salvini's approach reprehensible but sympathise with his cause.

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Avvenire (IT) /

Using defenceless people as hostages is not on

Salvini's demands are correct but his method is disgraceful, writes Marco Tarquinio, editor-in-chief of Avvenire:

“Given the way the plan agreed on by the EU Commission in 2015 to 'redistribute' refugees from Italy and Greece has been undermined, the Conte government's objective of demanding a new and more effective regulation for the joint reception of asylum seekers and immigrants in the EU is perfectly legitimate. ... A rule is needed with which every state must comply, the big and the small countries of the Union alike, without excluding the former communist and neo-sovereign Eastern countries of the Visegrád Group in any way. However, it is illegitimate and shameful to pursue this objective by using defenceless people as hostages.”

La Croix (FR) /

A more gentle approach possible

There are less drastic ways of getting the EU partners to take action than that chosen by the Italian interior minister, Le Croix comments:

“The Spanish government has decided not to send back refugees who succeed in crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. At the same time it's calling on the rest of the Union to take action. ... The current situation calls for a gentle approach. The number of new arrivals has dropped dramatically in the past two years, especially as far as Greece and Italy are concerned. Now the pressure is more on Spain. ... The time is right to resume the discussion about ways to distribute refugees among the member states, and about how to open up legal emigration channels directly in the countries of origin.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Epochal break with Europe

Italy's interior minister could let it come to a major row with the EU, La Stampa fears:

“Matteo Salvini is seriously thinking about making an epochal break. For days he has been threatening, to start sending all new arrivals back to their port of departure. ... In reality this is not possible because Libya is not deemed a 'safe place' for asylum seekers. Or to be more precise: it's not supposed to be possible. If the minister were to start sending migrants back to Libya this would be a breach of international conventions. ... But Salvini doesn't seem to care about that. At the interior ministry they've already started reviewing the legal basis for bringing migrants back to where they came from.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Interior minister defying prosecutors

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the illegal detention of migrants on board the vessel named Ubaldo Diciotti. Salvini is walking on very thin ice now, columnist Antonio Polito observes in Corriere della Sera:

“To achieve political objectives you have to remain within the limits of national and international laws. Especially on the subject of migration, and particularly when you are minister of the interior. ... Today the situation is worrying, and we face the following paradoxes: the prosecutors have launched an investigation into a crime - the illegal detention of 177 'hostages' on the ship. For this crime the interior minister has openly assumed responsibility, in defiance of his own prosecutors. This is proof that a poorly managed migration policy could turn into a boomerang for the government.”