Italy threatens border checks with Slovenia over refusal to readmit migrants

The threat from League leader Matteo Salvini comes as the Italian government considers declaring a national state of emergency over the migrant crisis

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
Italian Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini answers reporters' questions at the end of a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

The Italian government will be left with no option but to reinstall strict border controls if Slovenia continues to refuse readmission of migrants who enter Italy, deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has warned.

Speaking on Tuesday, the leader of the anti-immigration League party, one of Italy’s governing coalition partners, insisted its northeastern neighbor is failing to adhere to previous agreements between Italy and Slovenia over the re-acceptance of migrants crossing the border illegally, and warned that Italy will soon have no choice but to reinstall border checkpoints.

“We need to reason with Slovenia so that it does what it has to do and what it did in the past,” said Salvini, referring to procedures previously followed as part of a bilateral agreement signed almost 30 years ago that was recently deemed illegitimate by a court in Rome.

“Otherwise we will be forced to reinstall border checkpoints, which is not my or our priority, but the situation cannot be left alone, in Trieste, in Lampedusa, in Ventimiglia, in Cutro,” he added, insisting that “everyone has to play their part” in tackling the migrant crisis.

The Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the northeast of Italy is the first area many enter when arriving in the country via the Balkan migratory route. It is considered to be the main crossing point for those traveling from Turkey and the surrounding areas into northern Europe.

Recent efforts have been made to establish a joint response on the migration issue between the two countries, and Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani met with his Slovenian counterpart, Tanja Fajon, last month to discuss the management of illegal migration in the region.

Police patrols comprising both Slovenian and Italian officers have operated in the region for some time, making regular checks on cars and public transport crossing the border.

However, the Italian government believes there has been a spike in illegal activity in recent times which has failed to be adequately addressed, a claim disputed by the Slovenian foreign ministry, which insists there is no evidence to corroborate the claim.

The wider migration crisis facing Italy’s southern coast has led to reports in the Italian press on Tuesday that a national state of emergency could be issued this week, a move that would facilitate procedures to allow the government to more effectively handle the large influx in new arrivals.

Nello Musumeci, Italy’s minister for civil protection, told the Ansa news site he had discussed the possibility with Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi on Tuesday and said a state of emergency is now a “very likely scenario.”

“The state of emergency should facilitate procedures,” said Musumeci. “We are talking about a phenomenon never seen in the past. The islands alone cannot deal with this state of emergency.”

Another 3,000 new arrivals landed on Italy’s southern coast and islands over the weekend, while there were also reports of fatalities and shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. The rate of arrivals is now on par with the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis back in 2015.

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