Italy's right-wing northern regions refuse to host more boat migrants

2015-06-08 20:05


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Rome - The only three Italian regions that are not administered by the centre-left Democratic Party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi rallied together on Monday in refusing central government demands to take in more migrants.

Together with Greece, Italy bears the brunt of boat migrant arrivals from North Africa. Two weeks ago, the International Organisation for Migration calculated that 40 160 had arrived on Italian shores since January 1.

"Enough. We are facing a biblical exodus triggered by wars that have shaken many countries in North Africa," Luca Zaia, governor of Veneto, the north-eastern region that includes Venice, told local paper Il Mattino.

Zaia joined sides with Roberto Maroni, who pledged on Sunday to punish mayors in his region of Lombardy who accept more migrants by cutting regional funding for their cities. Maroni and Zaia both belong to the far-right, anti-migrant Northern League party.

Giovanni Toti, newly elected leader of the north-western region of Liguria for the conservative Forza Italia party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, said he was going to form a no-more-migrants front with Zaia and Maroni.

The Italian Interior Ministry is trying to redistribute migrants nationally, to ease the burden on southern regions. At the moment, out of almost 76 000 asylum seekers hosted in reception centres, 22% are based in Sicily.

Lombardy - the wealthiest and most populous Italian region, accounting for 16% of the national population - takes in only 9% of the tally, while Veneto takes 4% and Liguria 2%.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who hails from Sicily and leads a small centre-right party that once was in government with the Northern League but now supports Renzi's administration, accused Maroni and his allies of populism and selfishness.

"To tell some regions 'deal with it on your own' is an intolerable display of anti-southern hatred," Alfano said after talks in Rome with EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

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