by Stefania Fumo
ROME, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The security of the Italian people depends on securing the European Union's southern borders, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Tuesday.
This means preventing asylum seekers from crossing the Mediterranean by securing deals with North African countries such as Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, and also deporting migrants who have no right to asylum in Italy, Salvini told Otto e Mezzo (Eight and a Half, in Italian) political talk show on La7 private TV network.
"I think I can do something positive for the security of 60 million Italians," the minister said in defense of his recent decision to refuse access to a humanitarian NGO ship with 629 rescued asylum seekers on board.
Salvini, whose far-right League party made huge gains in the last general election and in local elections across Italy, also serves as as deputy prime minister in Italy's brand-new populist-rightwing coalition government.
His comments came after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Rome on Monday that the most pressing threat to Italian security comes from the south.
Conte cited "terrorism, violent extremism, illegal trafficking of every kind, including human trafficking, and arms proliferation" in reference to North Africa and the Middle East.
Stoltenberg replied that "Italy is at the forefront of NATO's adaptation to the threats from the south" by hosting a Joint Force Command in Naples and its Hub for the South, among others.
The Hub will help "monitor regional threats like terrorism and failing states", and Italy will soon host NATO's cutting-edge surveillance drones in Sicily.
The NATO chief added that the Alliance will launch a new training mission in Iraq, and it will also step up support for other partners in the Middle East and North Africa, like Jordan and Tunisia.
"By tackling these problems at source, we can help prevent new crises and conflicts, and more people fleeing to Italy's shores," said Stoltenberg. "So what we do is in the interest of the citizens of Italy."