di Riccardo D'Andrea
Milan, June 6 - The second-in-command of the Northern League on Thursday said Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge's push to decriminalize undocumented immigration to Italy has sparked a wave of incoming migrants. "If we have a minister who says that clandestine immigration is no longer a crime and who is open to (their receiving) citizenship, while all of Europe is going in the other direction, obviously anyone who escapes is going to head for Italy," said Matteo Salvini. Kyenge, Italy's first black cabinet minister, and her efforts to reform Italy's immigration laws have run into strong opposition, namely from the Northern League whose founder, Umberto Bossi, helped draft the current law passed in 2002 during ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's administration making illegal immigration a criminal offence. The Northern League and other parties on the right have argued for tougher immigration laws and enforcement. Salvini said that since she became vocal about immigration reform last month, "the arrival of immigrants by boat have picked up by the hundreds". The number of migrants arriving in southern Italy by sea has picked up in recent months, a routine occurrence as sea conditions improve in spring and summer. Since her swearing-in, Salvini has attacked Kyenge several times, saying that "having a former illegal immigrant as a minister can only happen in Italy, and it's making a laughing stock of us". Kyenge, 48-year-old doctor who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to Italy three decades ago to study medicine. Her appointment prompted a series of ethnic slurs from Mario Borghezio, a member of the Northern League in the European Parliament, who claimed Kyenge would "impose her tribal traditions from the Congo" on Italy. He later apologized, but the EFD Eurosceptics' caucus on Monday kicked him out for his remarks nonetheless.