Matteo Salvini, the popular leader of Italy’s Lega Nord (“Northern League”) party and who is widely tipped as a serious contender to be Italy’s next prime minister after elections in two months’ time, has vowed to kick out at least 100,000 African invaders from Italy every year for his five year term of office.
“There are half a million irregular migrants in Italy. All of them need to be sent home,” Mr Salvini told La Repubblica newspaper.
“In Italy, there are too many illegal immigrants who go around making a mess, I cannot take it anymore,” Salvini told the host of Dimartedì political talk show that aired on La7 news channel. “There are those who use the aircraft to bring immigrants to Italy. I would use them to bring them back home.”
Salvini dismissed suggestions that his party was xenophobic, arguing that he was trying to prevent the rise of racism by tackling the problem of illegal immigrants.
“The only antidote to racism is to control, regulate and limit immigration. There are millions of Italians in economic difficulty. Italians are not racist, but out-of-control immigration brings with it far from positive reactions. We want to prevent that,” he said.
The next Italian elections are due in March this year, and Salvini’s party, the Northern League, is in a formal alliance with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “Let’s Go Italy” (Forza Italia), the “Brothers of Italy” (Fratelli d’Italia) party under Giorgia Meloni, and the “Us with Italy” (Noi con l’Italia) party under Raffaele Fitto.
The latest opinion poll—carried out on January 24—puts the collation well ahead at 39 percent of the national vote—a near record in Italian politics. The “Five Star Movement” follows with 27.4 percent, and the outgoing government—a center-left alliance—at 26.1 percent.
Traditionally, the party in an alliance in Italy choses the next prime minister, so there is friendly competition between the Lega Nord and Forza Italia to see who polls the most votes of the two. If, as the Lega Nord hopes, they come out on top, then Salvini could very well become prime minister.
It is in Salvini’s favor that Berlusconi—who has previously served as prime minister of Italy—cannot put himself forward as a candidate because he is still subject to a ban on holding public office as a result of a tax fraud conviction.
Berlusconi, who remains leader of Forza Italia, has so far—unusually—said nothing about who he might nominate for the office of prime minister should his party outpoll the Lega Nord—indicating perhaps that he will be quite happy for Salvini to take the reins.
The Lega Nord is a mixed bag party, ideologically speaking. Founded as a northern Italian separatist party, the League traditionally never even campaigned in the south, condemning that region on account of its higher crime rates, welfare dependency, and regarding it as a drain on the richer, more advanced north.
However, since Salvini took over the party, it has dropped the demands for an independent north, and started campaigning in the south as well.
- In a move designed to deflect accusations of “racism,” Salvini has also appointed a legal Nigerian immigrant, Toni Iwobi, as head of his party’s immigration policy department.
Ironically, Iwobi is as fiercely opposed to the flood of Africans pouring into Italy as Salvini is, telling media that there is an “invasion of illegal immigrants” and that it is madness to import “new poor people without being able to guarantee them a future.”