Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, 6 September 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Marco Ottico
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, 6 September 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Marco Ottico

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said, regarding migrant arrivals on Italian shores, that the authorities “certainly can't stop the boats by sinking them," and said the strategy is to work with countries of origin to stop departures.

Over 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in July and August, the vast majority of whom came autonomously on small boats from Tunisia. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, however, rejected accusations that the government hasn't done enough to stop the arrivals. "One of the accusations they make against us is that we haven't blocked autonomous arrivals," Lamorgese said, speaking at the Ambrosetti Forum economic conference. "We certainly can't stop the boats by sinking them. They mustn't depart," she said, responding to criticism from Sicily Governor Nello Musumeci, who was quick to respond.

"Sink boats? Are they taking us for criminals?" Musumeci countered. "The interior minister missed the chance to say something simple: they enormously underestimated the health risks connected to migration."

NGOs represent small intake of arrivals

Lamorgese instead highlighted the point that the impact of humanitarian ships on summer migrant arrivals, always a source of political controversy, has been small. "In the past two months, all migrants arrived autonomously," Lamorgese said. "The only arrival with an NGO ship [the Sea Watch-4 in Palermo], took place last week and involved 350 people," she said.

The interior ministry's strategy is to work with countries of origin to stop departures, because once the boats leave, there is little that can be done. "Between July and August, I went to Tunisia twice, the most recent time with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and two European commissioners," she said. "We are working to help that country, to support and grow its capacity to manage public administration and migrant flows. We spoke with the president and the prime minister-designate and they reassured us, they blocked departures from Sfax, which was the main port of human traffickers. Now the traffickers have found other ports, but we have made all the necessary interventions," Lamorgese added.

The other door that Italy continues to knock on is that of Brussels."The European Migration Pact that will be presented soon should absolutely establish the principle of mandatory, and not optional, relocations. The Visegrad countries don't want that, and we proposed that there be economic sanctions for those who don't participate in relocations," Lamorgese said.

Minister defends Italian security model

Lamorgese also defended the Italian security model, a topic that, in her option, should not be subject to political controversy. "Security is pursued by tenaciously building, day by day, solid networks based on shared objectives and interests, certainly not by building walls that will never be high enough to protect us," she said.

Lamorgese's statements, however, weren't enough to convince Musumeci, who is contemplating new measures after the government rejected his ordinance blocking arrivals. "They didn't adapt facilities to the risks connected to the pandemic, which we've known about since the start of February (...) Everyone knows that our battle is one of civility. Therefore, we won't stop," Musumeci concluded.

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