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Italy's outgoing Interior Minister continues to mobilize prejudices against migrants as a way to exert political pressure in the process of government formation.
The Italian political class is about to form a new government without the participation of the far-right politician Matteo Salvini. In the midst of this political change, the Mare Jonio rescue vessel has been seized and fined 300,000 euros for entering Italian territorial waters, although the authorities of the country authorized its entry into the Lampedusa port so that it could disembark the 31 migrants on board.
"The Mare Jonio seizure was a plain and simple abuse of power. A small and miserable revenge. In his last five minutes at office, Minister Salvini wanted to make this joke,” the Mediterranea Saving Humans spokesperson, Luca Casarini, said.
"Everything is absurd. We entered territorial waters because, I repeat, we received authorization to do so. However, a Customs and Border Police boat arrived at night and informed us that we had violated the Security Decree."
After five days of waiting at sea, the Mare Jonio docked on Lampedusa island after receiving an authorization to do so for sanitary reasons. Previously, the humanitarian ship had sent several requests to the Italian authorities to disembark due to a sanitary emergency caused by the lack of water on board.
The unexpected change in the authorities's behaviour, however, would be related to a "last minute" attempt by the outgoing Interior Minister to use the migration issue for political negotiation.
"Immigration continues to be a point of discord in the government formation process, something that the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, takes advantage of to lash out against the future executive, which could be born this very week, if negotiations to overcome this crazy crisis do not run agroundt," the Spanish outlet ABC reported.
The Mare Jonio picked up around 100 migrants adrift off Libya in a rubber dinghy last Wednesday. Many of those rescued were women and young children who were transferred to another ship and brought ashore last week.
The Italian Customs and Border Police (Guardia di Finanza) also ordered on Monday the seizure of the Eleonore ship, which belongs to the German NGO Mission Lifeline and carries 104 rescued African migrants.
"Laws and borders will be respected. If someone thinks he can ignore them without consequences, he is making a big mistake," Salvini said and ratified his worldview by saying that "I am doing and will do everything to defend Italy."
The Eleonore's migrants will go to Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Portugal and France. The announcement of their relocation was given by a the European Commission spokesperson, as reported by La Repubblica.