Rome, April 17 (IANS/AKI) The multi-million dollar people trafficking business is "over", Italy's anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday, claiming that the populist government's hardline approach to illegal immigration had also saved many lives in the Mediterranean due to a sharp fall in crossings.
"The number of deaths in the Mediterranean has halved thanks to this government. Those who were earning millions of euros are understandably worried," he told supporters in Perugia.
"The party is over," said Salvini, who closed Italy's ports to migrant rescue ships in when he took office in June last year.
A total 260 migrants were detected on the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy in January and February: 95 per cent fewer in the same period of last year, according to European Union coastguard and borders agency Frontex figures issued in March and hailed by Salvini.
Salvini, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said that the country's ports will stay closed to migrant rescue vessels and only genuine refugees will be allowed to enter the country.
"Whoever flees from war can be recognised (as a refugee) in the place they are escaping from.
"And we are working to end war. In Italy, children and disabled people are arriving by plane via humanitarian corridors.
"I repeat no one will enter Italy without permission," Salvini told public Radio 1.
"Once again - Italy's ports are closed," he added, claiming that the policy was "in the national interest - to protect 60 million Italians".
Salvini's comments came after Italy's Premier Giuseppe Conte warned this week that foreign fighters could arrive amid a possible influx of refugees fleeing to Italy by boat from the escalating military conflict in Libya.