ROME - Italian Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said humanitarian protection requests have fallen to just two percent in the first 20 days of 2019, with 50,000 fewer migrants in reception centres "at Italy's expense" and expulsions surpassing arrivals "for the first time". Salvini also said he has new proof of contacts between human traffickers and NGOs, to which Italian ports remain closed. Salvini provided figures and information regarding his preferred battle, that of migrants, while remaining indifferent to the wave of criticism surrounding him. In addition, he made no mention of the news of a possible new shipwreck: a rubber dinghy left Libya on December 21 with 95 people aboard and was never heard from again, according to accounts from passengers' family members gathered by the NGO Mediterranean Hope.
Salvini said the figures, which he called "true, real, and positive," regard "Italians' safety". The security decree bearing his name changed requirements for requesting humanitarian protection, resulting in a drop in humanitarian protection requests in the first 20 days of 2019 to just two percent of the total, compared to 26 percent of the total in the same period in 2018. Salvini cited an increase in denials, from 57 percent to 78 percent, also as a result of changes brought about as a result of the new law. Applications for refugee status have remained stable (from eight percent to nine percent of the total), and applications for subsidiary protection, another form of protection not modified in the new law, have also remained stable (from five to six percent).
Salvini said expulsions surpassed arrivals for the first time, with 155 arrivals compared to 221 expulsions, and an additional 368 rejections at the border. The third data point regards the number of people in the reception system: He said there were 183,000 people in the system on January 1, 2018; that figure now stood at 133,000, he added, calling the decrease "an incredible 50,000 fewer". To those who mention the fact that the figure represents thousands of "invisible" people who likely ended up on the street and could present a problem for public safety, Salvini responded that those people are no longer his problem. His response also effectively confirmed that thousands of them have crossed the border. "It is my understanding that of these thousands of people who have left the reception system, the majority of them are no longer in Italy," he said. "I regret that; it's a presence that other European countries who have left us on our own for years will now find themselves having to manage," he said.
NGOs and Salvini criticize each other
The second point on Salvini's agenda was an attack on NGOs. "There is proof of telephone contacts between some people aboard the NGO ships and some traffickers on land," Salvini said. "We will notify a prosecutor's office. These are things that regard the judicial authorities and not the minister," he said.
The NGO response came from Barcelona-based Open Arms
. "Salvini, do you also have proof of contacts between the mafia, Italian businesses, and Libyan oil traffickers? Because it seems that the United States does," Open Arms said. Germany's Sea-Watch, whose
has been at sea for days drifting between Malta and Lampedusa with 47 rescued migrants aboard, did not respond to Salvini's comments. "A storm is arriving, and the passengers are very cold and need a safe port now," Sea-Watch said. Salvini denied that appeal. "Malta needs to receive them in its port, while Netherlands (the country of the ship's flag) needs to collaborate with Valletta to manage the landing and reception directed by Brussels," Salvini said.