Italy’s ex-interior minister faces possible charges for blocking migrants

Former interior minister and leader of the League Party Matteo Salvini attends a party rally in San Giovanni La Punta, near Catania, Sicily
Former interior minister and leader of the League Party Matteo Salvini attends a party rally in San Giovanni La Punta, near Catania, Sicily

Italy’s right-wing leader Matteo Salvini has appeared before a court in Sicily that will decide whether he will face trial for blocking 131 migrants for several days on a coast guard ship in 2019 when he was interior minister.

The hearing was adjourned until November 20, when Premier Giuseppe Conte has been summoned as a witness.

The court has also called foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, who was vice premier at the time of the standoff, as well as the current interior minister and the former defence and transport ministers.

Mr Salvini, who has largely faded from the public spotlight since being ousted as a minister, has turned the preliminary hearing into a political rally of sorts, staging days of events in a piazza in Catania to rail against Mr Conte’s government.

The League’s leader Matteo Salvini wearing a face mask, leaves after a hearing in court in the Sicilian city of Catania, southern Italy
Matteo Salvini leaves after a hearing in court in the Sicilian city of Catania, southern Italy (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)

The Senate voted in February to lift Mr Salvini’s parliamentary immunity, paving the way for a possible trial on charges of kidnapping and abuse of power.

The Gregoretti was stuck at sea for days in July 2019 until a judge approved its landing in Augusta, Sicily.

The Senate has also lifted his immunity in a second case, in which he is accused of refusing to allow 164 migrants off a rescue ship in Sicily.

A preliminary hearing in that case is pending.

During his 14 months as interior minister, Mr Salvini repeatedly denied ships carrying rescued migrants access to ports.

The policy resulted in numerous standoffs, leaving migrants stuck at sea for many weeks before European countries could identify a willing port or courts intervened.

Mr Salvini says he wants to face charges in both cases to clear his name.

Yet he fought to maintain immunity in a third case that was brought while he was still minister, winning protection from prosecution for not allowing 190 migrants off another coast guard ship in August 2018.

Mr Salvini remains the head of Italy’s most popular party, even if it has shed about 10 percentage points in opinion polls since the 2018 elections.

The slide began when he lost his cabinet post in a failed bid to topple the Italian government in August 2019.

Instead, the 5-Star Movement formed a new coalition with the centre-left Democratic Party, pushing Mr Salvini’s League into opposition.

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Melania Trump blasts critics over child migrants and says ‘who gives a f**k’ about Xmas decor in leaked recordings

FIRST Lady Melania Trump blasted critics over child migrants and said “who gives a f**k” about Christmas decorations in audio recordings that were released on Thursday.

Melania was secretly recorded by her former friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who worked as an unpaid aide in the East Wing of the White House until being let go in February 2018.

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Secretly taped audio recordings of First Lady Melania Trump were leaked on Thursday

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Secretly taped audio recordings of First Lady Melania Trump were leaked on ThursdayCredit: AFP or licensors
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania's former BFF, recorded and leaked the tapes

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Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania’s former BFF, recorded and leaked the tapesCredit: ABCNews

The 50-year-old was heard complaining to Wolkoff about reporters who questioned her about President Donald Trump’s policy of separating kids from families who crossed the US border with Mexico illegally.

“They say I’m complicit. I’m the same like him, I support him. I don’t say enough I don’t do enough where I am,” she told Wolkoff in the recording that was obtained by CNN.

“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f**k about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”

In the audio, Melania continued: “OK, and then I do it and I say that I’m working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’

Melania is heard in the audio blastic critics about child migrants

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Melania is heard in the audio blastic critics about child migrantsCredit: Reuters

“Give me a f**king break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that? I can not go, I was trying get the kid reunited with the mom.

“I didn’t have a chance – needs to go through the process and through the law,” the first lady said.

People are seen here inside a US Border Patrol Processing Center, in McAllen, Texas, in 2018

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People are seen here inside a US Border Patrol Processing Center, in McAllen, Texas, in 2018Credit: EPA

As noted by CNN, Melania was referring to former President Barack Obama’s policy of kids being separated from parents “only when authorities had concerns for their well-being or could not confirm that the adult was in fact their legal guardian.”

It wasn’t used as a blanket policy as it was in the Trump administration. 

In another tape recorded by Wolkoff, Melania said migrant kids are brought to the US “by coyotes.”

She said that the reactions from children shows the quality of US detention centers explains “the way they take care of them,” referring to their parents.

Wolkoff and Melania and President Donald Trump are pictured here in 2008

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Wolkoff and Melania and President Donald Trump are pictured here in 2008Credit: Getty Images – Getty

“The kids, they say, ‘Wow I will have my own bed? I will sleep on the bed? I will have a cabinet for my clothes?’ It’s so sad to hear it but they didn’t have that in their own countries, they sleep on the floor.

“They are taken care of nicely there. But you know, yeah, they are not with parents, it’s sad,” Melania said.

“But when they come here

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At Mamata’s Kitchen in Bengal, migrants to get meals at Rs 5



a group of people wearing costumes


The Trinamool Congress has started ‘Didir Rannaghar [Mamata’s Kitchen]’ in West Bengal to provide meals to the migrant workers for Rs 5 only. The initiative, ‘Mamata’s Kitchen’, has been started with an aim to support lakhs of migrants workers in the state who lost their jobs and suffered a financial setback due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

At ‘Didir Rannaghar’ or ‘Mamata’s Kitchen’, meals would be provided to the migrant workers at Rs 5 between 11 am and 3 pm. The meals at ‘Didir Rannaghar [Mamata’s Kitchen]’ would be vegetarian, mostly, and would include rice, dal (pulses), mix vegetable, ‘Khichdi’ (cooked rice and lentils), and papad.

While Mamata’s Kitchen has already started functioning in Howrah, Belgachhia (in Kolkata) and Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas, the Trinamool Congress plans to provide meals at Rs 5 to migrant workers across the state during the festive season.

TMC MLA Tapas Roy told News18 that ‘Didir Rannaghar’ aims to benefit the underprivileged sections/unorganised sectors who have suffered immensely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tapas Roy also said that the Trinamool Congress is also planning to donate clothes to the poor during the festive season.

Meanwhile, West Bengal’s coronavirus tally surged past 2,50,000 on Monday with 3,155 fresh cases, while 56 more fatalities pushed the death toll to 4,837, a bulletin released by the state health department said.

The state has registered a total of 2,50,580 coronavirus cases so far. Since Sunday, 2,923 people have recovered from the disease, taking the discharge rate to 87.73 per cent.

(With PTI inputs)

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