Salvini tells UN High Commissioner: Don't give us lessons

ROME – Interior minister Matteo Salvini has hit back at the UN’s newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for slamming Italy’s treatment of migrants as “inappropriate, unfounded and unjust”, political sources said on Tuesday.

 Just one month after her appointment, the former Chilean president debuted at the 39th Geneva Council with an address entirely focused on the migration issue, promising to set up a taskforce to monitor intolerance towards new arrivals.

 "We intend to send personnel to Italy and Austria to evaluate the reported strong increase in acts of violence and racism against migrants, people of African descent and Roma," Ms Bachelet said.

 Mr Salvini pushed back by highlighting Italy’s role on the frontline of the migration crisis. 

 “Italy has welcomed 700,000 immigrants in recent years, many of them illegal, and has never received collaboration from other European countries,” he said.

 “So we do not accept lessons from anyone, let alone from the UN which has proven to be biased, unnecessarily expensive and uninformed: the police deny there is a racism problem.”
  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Farnesina) issued a public statement overnight echoing Mr Salvini’s position.

 “Italy has for years been engaged in the frontline rescue and reception of people trying to cross the Mediterranean, using more funds and resources than any other country,” the statement read.

“Broad sectors of Italian civil society have been and are engaged in various initiatives … aimed at protecting the rights and interests of those who undertake terrible journeys and remain victims of exploiters and traffickers of human beings, with the hope for a better life, far from wars, destruction, poverty and famine.”

  The High Commissioner’s remarks were also leveled at the controversial management of the Aquarius migrant rescue ship.

 “The Italian government has denied the entry of NGO rescue ships. This kind of political attitude and other recent developments have devastating consequences for many already vulnerable people,” Ms Bachelet said.

 “Even if the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has decreased, the mortality rate for those who make the crossing was even higher in the first six months of the year than in the past.”

  Also targeted in her speech was the erection of border walls and Ms Bachelet openly criticized Donald Trump’s administration for separating children from parents at the Mexican border – a practice she described as “unforgivable”.