Visiting Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (L) and Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq attend a joint news conference in Tripoli, Libya, on June 25, 2018. (Xinhua)
by Stefania Fumo
ROME, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Italy and Libya see eye-to-eye on curbing illegal immigration, Italy's interior minister and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini told a televised press conference here on Monday.
This means setting up migrant processing centers in countries south of Libya, such as Chad, Mali, Nigeria, and Sudan, said Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party that has been governing Italy alongside the anti-establishment Five Star Movement since June 1.
"Blocking the illegal immigration business means blocking the damaging and dangerous intervention of foreign ships," he said in reference to humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who rescue shipwrecked migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.
"Knowingly or unknowingly, these NGOs are accomplices (of the migrant traffickers)," said Salvini, adding that Italy is committed to closely cooperating with Libya on security as well as other sectors such as trade and economics, saying the Italian government was committed to "developing wider economic and trade partnerships in Libya."
Salvini's comments came after he met with authorities in Tripoli, Libya, earlier in the day on what was his first international mission since taking office at the beginning of June.
Salvini said in Tripoli that the two countries would work closely together to "fight illegal immigration."
In a joint press conference with Libyan deputy prime minister Ahmed Maiteeq, Salvini said "southern Libya's external borders must be reinforced".
Salvini followed this up with a visit to a center for vulnerable people in need of international protection in Tripoli that will be operational within a month, according to officials.
"Europe must finance legal immigration routes and oppose out-of-control flows," Salvini said during that visit. "The only way to fight the traffickers' criminal interests and to prevent the death journeys is to stop the boats from leaving in the first place."
Salvini added that "I say no to hot spots (asylum processing centers) in Italy, which would not stem illegal immigration and would cause more difficulties for us and for Libya."
Along with Greece and Spain, Italy has borne the brunt of the migrant crisis as tens of thousands of men, women and children fleeing war and destitution in Africa and the Middle East entrust their lives to migrant traffickers to ferry them illegally across the Mediterranean.
So far this year, a total of 16,394 asylum seekers have reached Italy by sea, down 77 percent from the same period in 2017, according to interior ministry data.