Salvini’s anti-immigrant policy is like a bomb that’s ‘going to explode’

Refugee survivors in a dingy in the Mediteranean
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On 18 August, several people jumped into the sea from the Spanish humanitarian boat Open Arms to reach the Italian coast. Italian far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini refuses to give this boat permission to dock in Italy. It’s part of his far-right anti-immigrant policy.

Salvini’s far-right position

As The Canary reported, the Italian government has started to push increasingly stringent anti-immigration policies. As a result, thousands of people risk drowning in the Mediterranean. Salvini’s far-right party has also followed through on its plan to push through a law criminalising humanitarian rescue workers. They could now face fines of up to $1.1m.

The beginning

The Open Arms boat rescued people off the coast of Libya almost three weeks ago. The boat has been waiting to dock ever since. It rescued some people from unseaworthy dinghies off Libya.

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Initially, there were 147 people on board when it reached Italian waters. But the Italian coastguard took 40 people to Lampedusa when Salvini reluctantly agreed to allow them onto Italian soil. Some were in bad health, and 27 are believed to be children.

Conditions on board

The captain of Open Arms says the boat is in a “state of necessity” and he can no longer guarantee the safety of the people on board. He said the people on board are “psychologically broken” and the boat is like a bomb that’s “going to explode”.

Spokeswoman Laura Lanuza described the situation onboard the boat as untenable. She said:

There is anxiety, bouts of violence, control is becoming increasingly difficult

Swimming to land

When four people jumped off the boat to swim to the coast, crew members swam out to bring them back aboard. Founder of Open Arms boat Oscar Camps said:

We have been warning for days, desperation has its limits.

Hardline anti-immigration

Salvini, from the far-right party Lega, refuses to allow them onto Italian soil. It’s part of his crackdown on charity rescue boats coming from northern Africa.

Previously, Salvini told the ship to leave Italian waters. He claimed Open Arms was staying off the coast at Lampedusa “just to provoke me and Italy”.

Offers of help

The Spanish government offered help to the people on the boat. It also condemned Italy’s “inconceivable” response in refusing them permission to dock.

Open Arms says Salvini is using the remaining 107 people on board for “xenophobic and racist propaganda”. Meanwhile, the people on board are still waiting for a resolution.

Featured image Doug Kuntz/Sea-Watch 

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