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Executive Summary for June 5th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including Italy’s new interior minister vowing a crackdown on immigration, fresh allegations in Germany’s asylum office scandal, and the death toll rising from a shipwreck off Tunisia’s coast.

Published on June 5, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Italy’s New Interior Minister Vows Crackdown on Immigration

Italy’s new interior minister Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigration Northern League party, vowed to ramp up the detention and deportation of undocumented migrants.

Echoing the rhetoric of Donald Trump, he said Tunisia – where dozens of migrants died at sea this weekend – “isn’t exporting gentlemen, it seems more often they’re exporting convicts.”

Casting doubt on Tunisians’ motives for migrating, he noted that Tunisia is a country with democratic elections, not “wars, epidemics, famines or pestilence.”

Tunisia’s foreign ministry summoned Italy’s ambassador to protest Salvini’s comments. Salvini’s right-wing party formed a coalition government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement last week.

As interior minister and deputy prime minister, Salvini controls immigration policy. After taking office he pledged to reduce migrant arrivals and increase the detention and deportation of rejected asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. “The good times for illegals are over – get ready to pack your bags,” he said.

In a visit to the island of Sicily, the first port of arrival for many migrant boats, Salvini was greeted by protesters holding signs saying “refugees welcome” as well as supporters chanting his name.

“Italy and Sicily cannot be Europe’s refugee camp,” he said, accusing Europe of abandoning Italy on the front line of refugee arrivals.

“Nobody will take away my certainty that illegal immigration is a business,” he said, while tempering his harsh rhetoric on volunteer rescuers in the Mediterranean: “I think it’s better to spend money in the countries of origin, and now if there are NGOs that want to work for free, that’s fine,” he said.

More Allegations in Germany Asylum Office Scandal

A scandal over mismanagement by Germany’s refugee office has deepened after reports that at least one person flagged as a potential security threat was erroneously granted asylum.

Germany is investigating claims that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) office in the city of Bremen wrongly granted asylum to hundreds of people.

The German interior ministry said the office had given asylum to one person deemed a potential terrorist threat and another with “extremist ties.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s handling of the allegations, and whether BAMF was properly resourced, are now under political scrutiny.

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported this weekend that it had seen documents showing Merkel was briefed on the allegations in early 2017.

Members of her coalition partner, SPD, blamed Merkel for excessive demands on BAMF staff.

“The loss of control over the most important authority in refugee policy served to the detriment of those affected and local authorities, and to the benefit of right-wing populists,” SPD deputy chair Ralf Stegner told Germany’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. “The chancellor has simply failed.”

Death Toll Rises in Tunisia Shipwreck

The death toll from a shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia has risen to 60, according to the International Organization for Migration. Another 52 people are missing and presumed dead.

IOM’s Lorena Lando said the bodies of 48 Tunisians and 12 other nationals were found at sea after the boat crammed with 180 passengers went down this weekend. The death toll was previously reported to be 48.

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