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25 Aug, 2018 21:32

‘Proud to defend Italy’s borders’: Salvini ‘ready’ for arrest as prosecutors proceed with inquiry

‘Proud to defend Italy’s borders’: Salvini ‘ready’ for arrest as prosecutors proceed with inquiry

Italy’s interior minister remained defiant in the face of Sicilian prosecutors, who have launched an investigation into illegal detention and kidnapping, over his continuing refusal to let 134 migrants disembark at Catania port.

“The Prosecutor of Agrigento officially asked for my personal data. To do what??? Do not waste time, I'll give it to you. Matteo Salvini, born in Milan on 9/3/1973, residing in Milan in via xxx, Italian citizenship,” the Lega leader wrote on his Facebook page, as news of the judicial inquiry broke.

“I am proud if you want to question me and arrest me because I defend the borders and security of my country, and welcome you with open arms.”

Officials began proceedings on Wednesday, and interviewed his staff at the interior ministry in Rome on Friday, before naming Salvini as the official subject of the investigation on Saturday afternoon.

The Diciotti affair has gripped Italy since Monday, when a coastguard ship bearing that name docked in Catania with 177 migrants, predominantly from Eritrea, who were rescued from an overcrowded vessel off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.

Salvini initially insisted that the new arrivals should be taken in by Malta, whose territorial waters they passed, but Valletta refused.

The government then insisted that the migrants would be allowed to leave the ship only if other EU states would accept their quota. So far Ireland and Albania –which is not in the European Union– have agreed to take between 20 and 25 migrants each. Forty-three migrants, mostly unaccompanied minors, women and those suspected of carrying diseases have disembarked at Catania.

Despite criticism from the EU and human rights organizations, the anti-establishment coalition government, in power since June, has held firm. No compromise was found at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week, and the UN call to “urgently” find a solution has so far gone unheeded.

Italy has accepted an estimated 500,000 migrants since 2014, so border control and anger at the European Union for failing to share responsibility for them were major themes during the past general election.

“Nobody can give lessons to Italy on its humanitarian efforts,” said transport minister Danilo Toninelli, who is responsible for administering ports, on Saturday. “The government is only asking the EU to give some sense to its own existence.”

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