Italy's far-right deputy PM hails Sunak's small boats plan as 'harsh but fair'

Matteo Salvini, who serves in Italy’s first far-right led government since the end of the Second World War, shared an image of Mr Sunak accompanied by details of his policy online.

DOVER, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Migrants including women and children are removed from a Border Force vessel after being picked up in the Channel on March 06, 2023 in Dover, England. On Tuesday, the British government is expected to announce a range of new measures to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel by boat. The new legislation would require their immediate removal to Rwanda or a
Number 10's crackdown on Channel crossings has attracted praise from Italy's far-right coalition. (Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak's controversial plan to stop asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats has been praised by Italy's far-right government.

The prime minister has attracted plenty of criticism over his new "Stop the Boats" policy, which will see anyone who makes the perilous crossing deported "in weeks" and banned from re-entering the country.

The EU has warned the Illegal Migration Bill is "violating international law", while the United Nations Refugee Agency said the move is a "clear breach of the Refugee Convention".

Sunak and home secretary Suella Braverman are likely to face more criticism over the coming days, but they do have the support of Italy's far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

In a post on Instagram, the leader of the country's Lega Nord party described the UK's latest measures as "harsh but fair".

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Matteo Salvini tweet on Rishi Sunak
Italy's Matteo Salvini described Sunak's plan as 'harsh but fair'. (Instagram/Matteo Salvini)
Mr Salvini, who serves in Italy’s first far-right led government since the end of the Second World War, shared an image of Mr Sunak accompanied by details of his policy online.
Mr Salvini, who serves in Italy’s first far-right led government since the end of the Second World War, shared an image of Mr Sunak accompanied by details of his policy online. (Reuters)

He quoted a tweet by Sunak – translated into Italian – which said: “If you arrive illegally in the UK, you can’t claim asylum; you can’t benefit from our modern slavery protections; you can’t make spurious human rights claims; you can’t stay”.

Italy's far-right Brothers of Italy party won elections last year after pledging to clamp down on migrants arriving by sea.

Prime minister Giorgia Meloni formed a coalition including Salvini's Lega Nord, which has taken measures to prevent charity rescue boats reaching the country, despite condemnation from humanitarian groups.

Salvini's comments come after at least 72 people, including children, perished at sea after a small boat carrying migrants hit some rocks off Italy's southern coast.

On Tuesday, Italy's interior minister Matteo Piantedosi strongly rejected claims that the country's stance on migrant crossings "impeded" rescue attempts.

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Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on March 7, 2023, following the announcement of the on the Illegal Migration Bill. - The UK government on Tuesday unveiled controversial plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel illegally on small boats, acknowledging it is stretching international law amid an outcry from rights campaigners. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Sunak has said anyone caught crossing the English Channel will be deported 'in weeks' and banned from re-entering the country. (Getty Images)

He said such a suggestion "constitutes a grave falsehood that offends, above all, the honour and professionalism of our forces working daily in the sea, in particularly difficult scenarios".

However, humanitarian groups and opposition lawmakers have criticised Italy's decision to only send border police vessels and not coast guard rescue after the boat was spotted.

There have been conflicting accounts between the Italian and Greek governments, and the EU's Frontex border control agency about sightings and warnings ahead of the shipwreck.

Meanwhile in the UK, the home secretary has criticised BBC football commentator Gary Lineker for comparing Downing Street's migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany.

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A piece of the boat and a piece of clothing from the deadly migrant shipwreck are seen in Steccato di Cutro near Crotone, Italy, February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Remo Casilli     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Italy's government is facing criticism over a shipwreck near Crotone which saw at least 72 people lose their lives - including children. (Reuters)

The presenter, who is refusing to back down over the comments, wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

Asked about the comments on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Braverman said: "I’m obviously disappointed that he should attempt to equate our measures with 1930s Germany. I don’t think that’s an appropriate way of framing the debate."