The Italian Senate has voted to strip former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of parliamentary immunity so that he can face kidnapping charges for refusing to allow migrants to disembark from a ship at a port in Sicily.
If Salvini, who leads the anti-mass-migration party, Lega (League), is found guilty, he faces a ban on holding political office and up to 15 years in prison. He has said that he acted in Italy’s national interest and that the charges against him are politically motivated, aimed at silencing criticism of the country’s open-door migration policy.
Under Italian law, ministers enjoy immunity for actions taken while in office — unless the Senate votes to lift that protection. On February 12, the Italian Senate voted 152-76 in favor of lifting Salvini’s immunity, after a parliamentary committee on January 21 recommended the action.
In December, the Court of Ministers in Catania, Sicily, ruled that Salvini should be indicted for “aggravated kidnapping” for depriving 131 migrants onboard the Gregoretti coastguard ship of their liberty by refusing to allow them to disembark. The incident, which occurred over a four-day period in July 2019, was part of Salvini’s “closed ports” policy against illegal immigration and an attempt to force EU member states to share the burden of mass migration.
More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy over the past four years. Under EU rules — known as the Dublin Regulation — migrants must seek asylum in their country of arrival, which, for reasons of geography, places an inordinate burden on Italy.
After five other EU member states agreed to take in most of the migrants onboard the Gregoretti, Salvini on July 31 allowed them to disembark in Augusta, Sicily, from where they were transferred abroad.
Read more: gatestone institute