Italy on Tuesday protested against what it called “unjust” criticism by the UN over the treatment of migrants, saying the comments were “inappropriate and unfounded.’’
The new UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said on Monday she intended “to send staff to Italy, to assess the reported sharp increase in acts of violence and racism against migrants, persons of African descent and Roma.”
Those remarks prompted an outcry from interior minister and deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, who threatened a retaliatory cut in Italian funding for the UN.
“Italy gives more than 100 million [euros] a year in contribution for the funding of the migrants.
“We will reflect with allies on the usefulness of continuing to give these 100 million euros to fund waste, embezzlement, stealing within an organisation that wants to give lessons to Italians while having [as members] countries that use torture and the death penalty.’’
In its statement, the foreign ministry did not repeat the threat, instead stressing Italy’s efforts to rescue migrants at sea, help African nations, and its calls for more EU and UN involvement in the Mediterranean migration crisis.
Since a new populist government was installed on June 1, Italy has significantly hardened its migration policy, de facto banishing migrant rescue vessels from its ports, while Mr Salvini constantly uses harsh anti-immigration rhetoric.
The foreign ministry said Italy was “proud” of having contributed to a year-on-year reduction in Mediterranean migrant deaths of 52 per cent in the year to date, and to an 80-per-cent reduction of migrant landings over the past 12 months.