Italy threatens to close airports to German migrant deportationsStaff Writer | October 8, 2018
The Italian government has threatened to close its country's airports amid reports that Germany is preparing to deport groups of migrants to Italy, the German Press Agency (DPA) reported on Sunday.
Europe Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini
"We're closing the airports, just like we've already closed the ports," said Salvini, the head of the anti-migrant League party and the architect of Italy's strict policy on migrants.
Italy's populist-rightwing coalition, and its hardline anti-immigrant stance, made international headlines when it closed the nation's ports to humanitarian vessels carrying rescued migrants.
According to DPA, employees at Munich's airport said that the southern German state of Bavaria is planning a first set of group deportations to Italy in the coming days, for those migrants who arrived at the German border but first registered in Italy.
The sources said Bavarian police are to accompany a charter flight with the migrants onboard to Italy, which is responsible for their asylum applications according to EU rules, DPA reported.
Germany has for several years been a popular destination for many migrants arriving in Europe, but the issue has become a hot topic in German elections, especially in Bavaria, where regional elections are to be held next weekend.
A spokesman for the Bavarian authorities responsible for asylum applications and deportations denied that there were plans for large-scale returns this week.
"There isn't any charter flight this week," DPA cited the spokesman as saying. Bavaria does finance its own flights for deportation, but these are "coordinated with federal police", he added.
A deportation by charter plane to Milan was already carried out at the end of July, according to the German Interior Ministry.
In the first half of the year, Germany sought to return 10,748 migrants to Italy. Only 1,692 foreigners were actually returned to Italy in the first half of 2018, DPA said.
Most of them were being sent back according to the so-called Dublin rules, under which migrants must register asylum claims in the EU member state where they first set foot, and that country remains responsible for handling their claims, according to DPA. ■