PES: Italian right-wing populists risk innocent lives for electoral gain
The new government of Italy, an alliance of populists and the far right, has refused to allow a rescue ship to dock in the southern Italian port of Palermo because it fears a loss of support in local elections.
The closure of Italy’s ports was ordered by interior minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-migration extremist ‘League’, formerly the Liga Nord, and by the infrastructure minister Toninelli from the 5 Stars Movement.
The ship, Aquarius, is carrying more than 600 people rescued from distress in the Mediterranean, including unaccompanied minors, children and pregnant women. The ship is operated by a European charity whose headquarters are in Germany.
PES president Sergei Stanishev said:
"It is disgusting that the new Italian government is willing to risk hundreds of innocent lives, including those of children and pregnant women, simply to maintain its permanent electoral campaign mode for domestic political purposes.
"It is also deeply ironic that an anti-European government coalition is now falling back on the argument that 'migration is a European responsibility', and is trying to provoke a diplomatic crisis with the Maltese government while refusing to fulfill its own obligations under international law.
"The PES has always argued that migration as a general phenomenon can only be managed fairly and collectively at a European level. But that is not the issue here, where more than 600 rescued civilians are in need of immediate humanitarian aid."
The response of the new Italian government contrasts sharply with the achievements of the previous government, led by Paolo Gentiloni, which reduced maritime migration flows by 80% thanks to the strategy implemented by interior minister Marco Minniti — while never refusing to provide emergency humanitarian assistance when it was needed.
Mr Stanishev added:
"We commend the progressive mayors of south of Italy coastal cities for their expressed willingness they stand ready to disobey inhumane instructions from Italy’s new leaders. Their behaviour honours the whole country.
"We call for an immediate change of heart from the Italian government, in accordance with international rescue laws as well as basic values of compassion, solidarity and humanitarianism."