Italy is asking the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to "defend" its shores from migrants, new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Friday.
Salvini, who heads the far-right League, said that neighboring Malta must "do more" to curb the arrival of asylum seekers from various countries in Africa. He also said human rights groups that try to assist migrants at sea would face greater scrutiny in future.
According to Salvini, Italy is "under attack" by migrants, primarily from Libya: "I am in favor of NATO, but we are under attack. We will ask NATO to defend us. There are many concerns about terrorist infiltrations," he told reporters.
"Italy is under attack from the south, not from the east," Salvini said, referring to NATO's anti-Russia emphasis.
It is unclear whether Italy's government will submit a formal request to NATO when its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Rome next week.
Salvini criticized charity boats operating in the Mediterranean Sea to help migrants as "acting like taxis."
According to the United Nations, over 500 people have died so far this year in the journey across the Mediterranean. In 2017, at least 2,853 died. This year marks a downward trend in migration.
The League has emerged as the second largest force in parliament after elections in March, and has since joined forces with the 5-Star Movement to form a government.