Renzi urges end to ‘do gooder’ men­tal­ity on mi­grant in­flux

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, the head of the rul­ing Demo­cratic Party (PD), said on Fri­day Italy did not have any moral duty to take in mi­grants, sharply tough­en­ing his stance over surg­ing num­bers of asy­lum seek­ers. Crit­ics ac­cused Renzi of adopt­ing the lan­guage of right­ist op­po­nents less than a year be­fore na­tional elec­tions, where the grow­ing mi­gra­tion cri­sis is likely to dom­i­nate cam­paign­ing.

“We need to free our­selves from a sense of guilt. We do not have the moral duty to wel­come into Italy peo­ple who are worse off than our­selves,” Renzi wrote in new book, ex­cerpts of which were re­leased ahead of pub­li­ca­tion on the PD web­site. “There has to be a fixed num­ber of ar­rivals,” he said, adding that Italy should help mi­grants in their home coun­tries. Un­der­scor­ing the sen­si­tiv­ity of the is­sue, the com­ments were swiftly re­moved from the web­site, but not be­fore they had gen­er­ated a back­lash among some PD sup­port­ers, and glee in the right-wing camp. Mat­teo Salvini, the leader of the anti-im­mi­grant North­ern League party, posted the deleted text on his own Twit­ter ac­count. “Thanks for all the work. We will take it,” Salvini wrote. “They (the PD) chat­ter and get em­bar­rassed about it, while we can’t wait to ac­tu­ally do it.”

More than 600,000 mi­grants have reached Italy over the past four years, the vast ma­jor­ity ar­riv­ing by boat from Libya. About 85,000 have come ashore this year alone, roughly 20 per­cent up on the same pe­riod in 2016. The up­surge in new ar­rivals, most of them from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, has un­set­tled the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, which has urged greater help from Euro­pean al­lies in re­set­tling the refugees.

Its re­quests have fallen largely on deaf ears and Renzi warned on Fri­day that Rome would look to curb fund­ing to EU na­tions that had re­fused to of­fer help. “They are shut­ting their doors. We will block their funds,” he said. Renzi’s PD party fared badly in lo­cal elec­tions last month, los­ing con­trol of 30 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in­clud­ing the tra­di­tional left­ist strong­hold of Genoa in north­ern Italy, with the mi­grant cri­sis in­creas­ingly weigh­ing on the gov­ern­ment.

For­mer Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs, Emma Bonino, caused em­bar­rass­ment in PD ranks this week when she said that Renzi’s gov­ern­ment had re­quested in 2014 that all the mi­grants leav­ing Libya be brought to Italy.

“At the be­gin­ning, we didn’t re­alise that this was a struc­tural prob­lem and not a pass­ing phase. We shot our­selves in the foot,” said Bonino, a for­mer Ital­ian for­eign min­is­ter. Renzi de­nied her as­ser­tion on Fri­day, but said that in fu­ture, Italy should do more to en­cour­age mi­grants to stay at home and de­velop their own economies. “We need to es­cape from our ‘do gooder’ men­tal­ity,” he said.

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