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Salvini proposes alliance against 'mass immigration'

Northern League calls on European allies to join in opposition

25 March, 15:49
Salvini proposes alliance against 'mass immigration' (ANSA) - Rome, March 25 - Matteo Salvini, head of Italy's regionalist Northern League, on Tuesday called on allies across Europe to join in fighting "mass immigration" in the lead up to May's European Parliament elections.

"We will propose a European alliance against mass immigration," said Salvini, adding he hoped to attract like-minded politicians from Austria, Denmark, Sweden and France.

"It will be a fundamental part of our program," he added, one day after he said the League was encouraged by the weekend victory in French municipal elections of the far-right National Front led by Marine Le Pen.

Salvini, whose party has taken strong stances against immigration, said he was confident that such groups would unit in their opposition to the euro and European institutions to sweep elections in May. "The dinosaurs and Euro-bureaucrats are afraid! A wind of freedom is blowing from France," Salvini said Monday.

He added that his anti-euro forces would prevail over European Union proponents including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian president Giorgio Napolitano.

"(European elections) will be a nightmare for Merkel, Napolitano, and every fan of the euro. A different Europe is possible," said Salvini in a statement on Facebook.

His position was buttressed by Le Pen who said in an interview with ANSA Monday: "I call on all the Euroskeptic forces in Europe to form an alliance in defense of national States, the return of democracy, the sovereignty of peoples and national identities". During a news conference Tuesday, Salvini also complained that Premier Matteo Renzi and his Interior Minister Angelino Alfano have been too slack on the subject of immigration. The League had also been strong and vocal critics of Italy's former integration minister Cecile Kyenge, herself an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The incredible couple of Renzi-Alfano are succeeding in what not even Kyenge managed to do: fill us with illegal immigrants," said Salvini. He also complained that Alfano has enforced "failed immigration policies".

As well, the League presented a motion of no-confidence in Alfano on Tuesday on other law and order measures, accusing him of overseeing the "emptying of prisons...dismantling of security policy". Immigration has been a hot-button topic in Italy as thousands of migrants arrived on the country's southern most shores, fleeing violence in the Middle East and North Africa, often by rickety sea vessels.

Last week, Italian Navy ships rescued approximately 1,000 migrants in small boats off Italy's southern coast in less than 24 hours.

That rescue operation came after more than 2,100 migrants were rescued days earlier by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard vessels, as they fled North African across the Channel of Sicily.

Tens of thousands of migrants arrive in Italy from North Africa every year and many others die attempting the crossing in often unstable vessels.

Boat arrivals in Italy more than tripled last year from the previous year, fuelled by the conflict in Syria and strife in the Horn of Africa.

Also last week, Northern League activists demonstrated against the arrival of a group of North African refugees, due to be sheltered in a local hotel in the town of San Genesio in the Pavia area south of Milan.