Italy‘s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said he was “fed up” with the rest of Europe “treating Italy like a refugee camp”. On Saturday, Mr Salvini alleged the Maltese authorities gave fuel and a compass to a boat of 13 migrants to help them reach Lampedusa instead of welcoming them to their country as obliged by European agreements. On Sunday, the eurosceptic Lega leader claimed that if the allegation was proven to be true he would be ready to send “nasty letters” to Brussels and make Malta “pay for the consequences”.
Mr Salvini also extended the warning to France following allegations of migrants being assisted by French authorities in crossing the Italo-Franco border.
He said: “If people were used to treating Italy like a refugee camp until now, with my Government this stops now.
“If it is proven that France damps migrants in the woods at night and that Malta gives petrol, lifejackets and compasses to migrants at sea saying ‘Straight ahead, Italy is that way’, enough is enough.
“Instead of waiting for Brussels to send its little letters we’ll be the ones who send Brussels nasty letters because I’ve had enough of this s**t.
“I’ve had enough of the rest of Europe treating Italy like a refugee camp.
“I have decreased the arrivals and I want to increase the expulsions. If Malta and France treat us like fools they will pay the consequences.”
In response, Mr Salvini’s counterpart in Malta, Michael Farrugia, called on the Italian Deputy Prime Minister to “stop criticising Malta” and defended its country’s humanitarian efforts to make up for Italy’s “failure to provide assistant to those in distress.
The Maltese Home Affairs Minister tweeted: “Stop criticizing Malta for doing its duties and start taking note of what Italy should do better to give priority and care to the safety of life at sea and to abide by international obligations.
“It is Italy that repeatedly fails to comply with applicable SAR conventions and international obligations.
“Malta has always followed all obligations and respected the principle of the nearest place of safety.
“Matteo Salvini should understand that migrant boats steaming on high seas are not always in distress. If persons on board refuse to get rescued, no SAR authority can prohibit them from continuing their journey.
“Malta has done much more than what was expected and disembarked migrants in Malta on humanitarian grounds due to #Italy’s systematic failure to provide any form of assistance to persons in distress.”