Italy has announced that it will step up border checks in light of the latest attacks in Europe. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Tuesday underscored the need to "raise the level of attention on illegal migration flows" that pose a "risk" amid the current situation.
The National Committee for Public Order and Securit together with Italian police and intelligence services decided to tighten border control of the country, including through the use of the army. The decision was made at a meeting on Tuesday, November 3.
The crackdown has come in response to the latest attacks in Europe in Nice and Vienna. Although no specific alarm has been raised, a high alert has been brought in across all Italy.
The meeting aimed to draw up an operating plan to share with Tunisia for more effective countering of human trafficking organizations. Prior to the meeting, the Counterterrorism Strategic Analysis Committee had reportedly conducted a reconnaissance of all preventative activities and issued an update on sensitive targets.
Di Maio calls illegal migrant flows 'a risk'
Responding to the attack in Vienna and regarding the issue of irregular migrants and terrorism, Di Maio repeated his call for the "raising of attention on illegal migration flows, as the interior ministry is doing."
He argued that illegal migration flows "represent a risk, and realism is needed. I was the first to speak about a problem in this area and the problem must be solved," he said.
"If a country does not have the resources to be able to assist then it cannot welcome (migrants). Otherwise the result is exasperation from social marginalization. We end up being in a bad position and so do they," Di Maio said.
The minister added that "defending one's borders is the duty of every state, as well as a right," noting that terrorists "could have attacked us as well."
Reactions by the center-right
This stance hints at issues that have long been dear to the center-right and Forza Italia (FI), whose MP Annamaria Bernini has called for a hardline to be taken against ''uncontrolled'' migration.
"Finally," commented Adolfo Urso from the Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, "we have seen clear words from Di Maio," urging that Lampedusa be "closed" as a "symbol of the fight against terrorism."
Much harsher was the reaction by FdI president Giorgia Meloni, who lashed out saying that "while Di Maio is calling for border control, his party (the Five Star Movement, M5S) and the government he is a part of are doing everything they can to open wide Italy's doors to mass illegal immigration.
"Di Maio is trying to claim he represents the right-wing part of the government but is failing miserably because he never speaks about the main problem that we have in front of us: fighting against Islamic proselytism in Europe, which prepares the ground for fundamentalism and in which terrorism grows and prospers," Meloni added.
Former interior minister and right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini also came down hard on his successor at the ministry, saying that "Italians want facts and not words. From Saturday until today (Tuesday), over 1,550 immigrants disembarked in Italy. What control is the interior ministry talking about?''.