The 81-year-old rightwing former prime minister said in a TV interview that immigration was a “social bomb ready to explode in Italy” and that the shooting in Macerata posed a security problem.
“Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a leftwing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” said Berlusconi. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.”
Berlusconi’s Forza Italia has forged an alliance with two far-right parties, the Northern League and the smaller Brothers of Italy, for the elections.
The three-time former prime minister is banned from running for office after being convicted of tax fraud, but could still end up pulling the strings of power should the coalition gain enough of a majority to govern.
“When we’re in government we will invest many resources in security,” he said. “We will boost police presence and reintroduce the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative … Our soldiers will patrol the streets alongside police officers.”
Berlusconi took a swipe at the EU for failing to share the burden of Italy’s migrant arrivals, saying: “Today, Italy counts for nothing in Brussels and the world. We will make it count again.”
Italy is a favoured landing point on Europe’s southern coastline for people making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often on board unseaworthy boats, to enter the continent. However, 2017 was a turning point for Italy: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to a controversial agreement between the EU and Libya. About 119,000 people came to Italy by boat last year, a 37% drop from 2016.
Five men and one woman, all from Ghana, Mali or Nigeria, were wounded in the Macerata shooting. Luca Traini, a 28-year-old arrested over the incident, was a failed candidate for the Northern League in local elections last year.
The party’s leader, Matteo Salvini, distanced himself from the shooting but said an “invasion of migrants” was at the root of a “social clash”. “I can’t wait to get into government to restore security, social justice and serenity to Italy,” he said on Saturday.
Traini has reportedly shown no remorse over the attack, which he told investigators he had carried out in retaliation for the murder last week of an 18-year-old woman, Pamela Mastropietro, whose dismembered body was discovered hidden in two suitcases near Macerata.
A Nigerian man, Innocent Oseghale, was arrested in connection with her death. He was denied asylum last year but has remained in Italy.
After the shootings, Traini allegedly got out of his car, made a fascist salute with a tricolour Italian flag draped over his shoulders and shouted “viva Italia” (“long live Italy”) and “Italy for Italians”, Italian media reported.
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