Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has written an angry letter to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz complaining about his country’s alleged funding of illegal migration to Italy.
The letter comes after the German ministry of foreign affairs decided on September 22 to grant subsidies to two pro-migration projects amounting to €2 million between 2023 and 2026.
One has connections with the Germany-based NGO SOS Humanity, a group that describes itself as “a search and rescue organisation working to ensure that no one dies while fleeing” across the Mediterranean.
The group transports migrants towards Italy, causing tension between Rome and Berlin. SOS Humanity will receive close to €800,000.
SOS Humanity’s press officer Lukas Kaldenhoff insisted that the German subsidy was too low, calling it “more than sobering”.
Meloni wrote: “I was surprised to learn that your government, without co-ordination with the Italian Government, had decided to provide substantial funds to non-governmental organisations working on the reception of irregular migrants on Italian territory and on sea rescues in Italy.”
Italian defence minister Guido Crosetto said providing the groups with the funding was a “very serious” issue that put Italy “in trouble”.
The coalition League Party in the Italian Government was infuriated by the German decision. Senior party member and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini called it “a disgrace, an outrage, and a hostile act”.
Meloni said that the rescue boats attract migrants and push people to make the dangerous trip crossing the Mediterranean, which “increases the risk of new sea tragedies”.
She suggested that the monetary aid could be of better use within Germany itself. European countries that wanted to help control illegal migration would be better off focusing on “structural solutions”, such as working with transit countries to stem the flow, Meloni added.
On September 13, Berlin decided to temporarily stop receiving migrants coming from Italy.
Italian media has pointed to the close ties between decision-makers in Germany and those working with NGOs.
Katrin Eckardt, the Greens party vice-president of the German Parliament, is the partner of Thies Gundlach, head of United4Rescue, a Germany-based organisation of Evangelical Churches that distributes funds to NGOs. Those funds come from the German foreign ministry led by the Greens member Annalena Baerbock.
SOS Humanity states on its website it wants to bring migrants “to the nearest safe port as quickly as possible”. That constitutes a breach of Italian policy legislation that stipulates such boats must arrive at designated ports.