Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has accused Spain of “encouraging out-of-control immigration.”
The remarks come after Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, gave an interview to the German daily Handelsblatt in which he accused Italy of implementing an immigration policy that harms other EU member states.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell
“Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is doing politics at the expense of not just Spain, but at the expense of all of Europe,” said Borrell, alluding to Italy’s refusal to grant port access to rescue ships which save migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean. This closure has re-activated the western Mediterranean route into Europe, with Spain as the main access point.
“We will not respond to insults from a government and a minister who favor out-of-control immigration,” said Salvini in statements to the Italian television station RAI, the news agency Europa Press reported. “Our concern is for the security, culture and identity of the European people.”
In the interview with the German newspaper, Borrell said the Italian official is conducting “a brutal isolation policy” that has shifted migration flows towards other countries like Spain. The Spanish minister said that this damages the notion of Europe, and he asked for “a unified EU policy based on solidarity that brings order to the refugee flows.”
The divergence of immigration policies among member states was underscored in mid-June, when Italy and Malta denied access to a rescue ship named Aquarius, operated by the French aid groups Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditérranée. The vessel, which was carrying 630 migrants aboard, finally pulled into the port of Valencia. Spain has since taken in more rescue ships, drawing praise and criticism alike for the Socialist administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
A ship operated by the Spanish non-profit Proactiva Open Arms is currently on its way to the southern city of Algeciras with 87 rescued migrants aboard. Besides the sea arrivals, there has been a spike in border crossings by land through the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Africa. Spain has asked the European Commission for new funds to manage the growing migration flows, and last week EU Immigration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos flew to Madrid to show support for Spain.
English version by Susana Urra.