Analysis. Schlein: ‘The question is, why didn't the Coast Guard intervene? We will not stop until we have an answer to this simple question.’

Meloni’s ‘conscience is clear’ after 30 more people died awaiting rescue

Again and again she repeats that her conscience is clear. Then, right afterwards, she promises that the government will not bow to the traffickers and the “ideological vision of a world without borders” and recalls that Sunday’s shipwreck occurred in a SAR area that is Libya’s responsibility.

If attacking is the best defense, on Wednesday Giorgia Meloni did just that. Not that we expected anything different, let’s be clear. From February 26, the day of the Cutro shipwreck that cost the lives of 86 migrants, to now, with the 30 dead who drowned in front of Libya, the government’s line has always been to absolve itself of any responsibility. And it has always done so by attacking anyone who criticizes it.

This playbook was also used Wednesday in the Chamber, where the premier, called to answer as part of question time, accused the oppositions of slandering Italy for political purposes.

“What actually discredits Italy,” was the reply of PD Secretary Elly Schlein, “is having a government that doesn’t show up and is silent for days about a tragedy like the one that took place. The question is, why didn’t the Coast Guard intervene? We will not stop until we have an answer to this simple question.”

Equally harsh was Riccardo Magi’s reaction: “Precisely because we have never wanted to slander the servants of the state,” said the deputy secretary of +Europa, “we must remember that personnel from the Coast Guard and the Navy have carried out rescues at those latitudes. The question is, what has changed? Nothing in the honor and skills of the men who serve the state, but rather in the political direction that is being given.”

In reply to Magi, who had asked for explanations about Italy’s failure to intervene in the shipwreck of the Libya-origin vessel, Meloni cited the report by Coast Guard chief Gianluca D’Agostino, insisting that “all the rules were applied.”

Specifically, the shipwreck occurred “in the SAR area under Libya’s responsibility” and Italy intervened “at the explicit request” of the Libyan authorities, but “our SAR units could not leave because they did not have sufficient autonomy to go and return safely, and the others would have arrived in 20 hours of navigation but were engaged in other rescues.” That is why merchant ships were activated. So “our conscience is clear, I hope that those who attack the government and do not say a word about the mafia of the human traffickers can say the same.”

Thus, there is no change of tack, no intention to change the hard line taken so far. Instead, the premier’s words echo the slogans already heard in the past election campaign: “We no longer intend to remain under the blackmail of unscrupulous traffickers who use migrants as human shields for their own trafficking,” she said, “and we no longer intend to let these criminals decide who can arrive in Italy and who cannot.”

She seems to have forgotten what happened in past years, when she would criticize the government on duty for the number of landings from the opposition benches. Now that in the first three months arrivals have tripled compared to the same period in 2022 (when Mario Draghi was at Palazzo Chigi), the premier speaks of “migratory pressure that has few precedents.”

“We know the causes,” she continues: “political instability, economic crises that are exacerbated by international conflict and, last but not least, the interests of powerful criminal organizations and traffickers who often have international offshoots.”

Finally, she mentioned initiatives at the international level in view of the March 23 European Council, starting with Tunisia, which has now become the main point of departure for migrants: “In the coming weeks we will call for immediate responses showing support for the North African states. Tunisia first of all, because Tunisia is experiencing a deep crisis with consequences that can be very worrying for Italy and beyond.”

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