Italy’s far-right Salvini scheduled to visit Israel in December
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and far-right party leader Matteo Salvini is scheduled to make an official visit to Israel in mid-December.
Publish date : Saturday 1 December 2018 12:05
The Israeli Haaretz newspaper broke the news on Friday, saying that Salvini’s visit to Israel will take place on December 11-12, without providing further details about the trip.
Salvini is known for his tough stance on immigration and fierce opposition to accepting asylum requests in the European country.
In recent years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking to develop closer ties with leaders associated with far-right views and parties such as Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, the Phillippines and Brazil.
Salvini’s Northern League party scored huge gains in the March elections on its xenophobic platform and vowed mass expulsions of refugees.
The far-right leader, whose party has formed a ruling coalition with the Five Star Movement (M5S), has accused European Union (EU) members of putting an unfair share of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Europe on Italy’s shoulders.
Salvini has adopted a hard-line stance on immigration and refugees since the coalition came to power in June, refusing to allow ships carrying refugees and asylum seekers rescued in the Mediterranean to dock at Italian ports.
Salvini also drew criticism and accusations of fascism earlier this year after he called for a registry of Italy's minority Roma community – mostly composed of people originally from Romania and the former Yugoslavia.
In a latest move, the Italian parliament on Thursday approved as law a tough anti-migrant and security bill drafted by the far-right leader despite strong criticism from the political left, making it easier to expel migrants and restrict residency permits.
Italy was one of the main destinations for refugees fleeing western-backed wars and conflicts in the Middle East and Africa before the new populist government took office in Rome.
Last year, Italian authorities reached an agreement with the internationally-recognized government as well as the militia in Libya — the main embarkation point for refugees seeking to reach Europe — to curb the flow. However, Salvini has threatened to seize rescue ships or bar them from Italian ports altogether as he tries to keep his word on campaign promises to stop the influx of refugees.
Over the past five years, more than 600,000 refugees have reached Italy by risking their lives on board unseaworthy boats in the sea. Some 500,000 of them are still staying in the country.
According to UN figures, at least 500 people have died this year while trying to cross the central Mediterranean. Some 2,850 also lost their lives last year.