Silvio Berlusconi pledges to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants

Italy’s ex-PM says immigration is a ‘social bomb ready to explode’ ahead of elections

Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy should his coalition enter government after elections on March 4th.  File photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy should his coalition enter government after elections on March 4th. File photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

 

Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy should his coalition enter government after elections on March 4th, as tensions simmer over the shooting of six Africans by a far-right extremist on Saturday.

The 81-year-old right-wing former prime minister said in a TV interview that immigration was a “social bomb ready to explode in Italy” and that Saturday’s shootings in Macerata posed a security problem.

“Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a left-wing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” Mr Berlusconi also said. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.”

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia has forged an alliance with two far-right parties, the Northern League and the smaller Brothers of Italy, ahead of the general election.

The three-time former prime minister is banned from running for office after being convicted of tax fraud, but could still end up pulling the strings of power should the coalition gain enough of a majority to govern.

“When we’re in government we will invest many resources in security,” he said. “We will boost police presence and reintroduce the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative . . . our soldiers will patrol the streets alongside police officers.”

Mr Berlusconi also took a swipe at the EU on Sunday for failing to share the burden of Italy’s migrant arrivals, saying: “Today, Italy counts for nothing in Brussels and the world. We will make it count again.”

Landing point

Italy is a favoured landing point on Europe’s southern coastline for migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often onboard unseaworthy boats, to the continent.

However, 2017 was a turning point for Italy: the country went from a large number of arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to a controversial agreement between the EU and Libya.

About 119,000 people came to Italy by boat last year in total.

Five men and one woman, who were from Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, were wounded in the Macerata shootings. Luca Traini, a 28-year-old arrested over the incident, was a failed candidate for the Northern League in local elections last year.

The party’s leader, Matteo Salvini, distanced himself from the shooting, but said an “invasion of migrants” was at the root of a “social clash”.

“I can’t wait to get into government to restore security, social justice and serenity to Italy,” he said on Saturday.

Traini has reportedly shown no remorse over the attack, which he told investigators he had carried out in retaliation for the murder last week of an 18-year-old woman, Pamela Mastropietro, whose dismembered body was discovered hidden in two suitcases near Macerata.

A Nigerian man, Innocent Oseghale, was arrested in connection with her death. He was denied asylum last year but remained in Italy.

After the shootings, Traini allegedly got out of his car, made a fascist salute with a tricolour Italian flag draped over his shoulders and shouted “Viva Italia”, Italian media reported. – Guardian service