The number of migrants landing on Italian shores continues to drop with a 95 percent reduction on the previous year for the first two months of 2019. The decrease is attributed to a security and immigration decree introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
A delegation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights has said that the decree has created problems concerning migrant rights, especially from the point of view of humanitarian protection, and has raised ''serious concern."
'I reduced landings by 95 percent,' says minister
In response, Salvini cited the figures released by the interior ministry: From January 1 to February 28, 262 migrants arrived in Italy compared with 5,247 the previous year. The ministry noted that the number of repatriations was four times that of the arrivals: 1,099 returned to their countries of origin, 1,013 through forced repatriations and 86 with assisted voluntary returns.
The MEPs delegation under Pier Antonio Panzeri of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) was in Rome for two days and visited MPs and government representatives, migrants and NGO representatives. It was, however, unable to meet with the deputy prime minister and interior minister. ''There was only a technical meeting with his offices,'' the delegation chief said, noting that he had not received a response from Salvini himself.
'Do not criminalize NGOs'
The MEPs position on NGOs is very far from that of the deputy prime minister. The delegation has asked governments ''not to criminalize'' NGOs helping migrants and intend to invite them to talk about their experiences in the Mediterranean at the European Parliament. The MEPs noted that the NGOs have been nominated for the Sacharov Prize, which every year is given to activists in the field of human rights.
The delegation also asked Italy not to ''outsource'' migration problems and to instead ''try to deal with them." The reference to Libya was implicit since the European community, Panzeri said, must not continue to fund those building detention camps. This is why, he said there ''needs to be an assessment on funding," including funding for the Libyan Coast Guard.