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Closing Italy's ports to NGO ships lawful says Salvini

Closing Italy's ports to NGO ships lawful says Salvini

Photo: AFP

Italy's anti-migrant interior minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday claimed he had respected the law, the constitution and voters by stopping charity boats delivering rescued migrants to the country's ports.

"President Mattarella today recalled that no one is above the law. He is right," Salvini wrote on Facebook after a speech by head of state Sergio Mattarella.

"For this reason, I, respecting the law and the Constitution and the promises made to Italians, have closed and will close ports to people smugglers and human traffickers," the post added.

"Investigate me, put me on trial, I will keep on going!"

Salvini has appeared on a collision course with Italy's judiciary after he said he said last month he was "proud" to be under investigation for the kidnapping last month of 177 rescued migrants who he refused for ten days to allow to land in Italy, sparking an international standoff.

A straw poll of TV viewers by broadcaster Sky showed 80 percent support for Rome’s hard line during the standoff.

Salvini also reacted angrily to a Genoa court ruling last week authorising the permanent seizure of nearly 49 million euros of funds belonging to his League party after its former leaders including party founder Umberto Bossi were convicted in 2017 in a vast fraud case.

"If they want to take everything from us, they can go ahead. We'll have no trouble staying in politics because the Italian people are with us," Salvini said

A survey by SWG pollsters in late July, showed 30 percent backing for the League party, against 17 percent support at the March general election and outstripping its senior coalition partner, the populist Five-Star Movement, which won almost twice as many seats in parliament.

Salvini and other rightwing politicians allege that charities rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean are abetting or are even in cahoots with the human traffickers who organise the crossings from Libya to Italy.