Pope Francis said on Wednesday that politicians should not close ports for desperate migrants, speaking after a court was given the green light to proceed with an investigation by Matteo Salvini, Italy's former interior minister, anti-immigrant.
"Around the world, migrant men and women face risky travel to escape violence, war, poverty," Francis said during his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
“Often, they cannot land at ports… today they are exploited by criminal traffickers! Some politicians treat them like numbers and see them as a threat, ”he said, partly departing from his prepared remarks.
The pope's comments, which made the defense of migrants an essential part of his pontificate, came two days after a decision by the Italian Senate committee that could lead to a trial of Salvini for an alleged kidnapping of migrants.
In July 2019, Salvini, who bet his political credibility on a vote to curb immigration from Africa, ordered 131 rescued migrants to remain on a ship in Sicily for six days until other European states agreed to accept them.
The court in the Sicilian city of Catania - a special court charged with investigating ministers - recommended last month that he be tried on charges of illegally detaining migrants on the coast guard ship Gregoretti.
If finally found guilty, the head of the far-right League, currently Italy's most popular party, could face up to 15 years in prison. He could also be barred from political office, risking his ambitions to lead a future government.
Salvini said he would face an eventual trial "with his head held high."
Francisco did not mention the case against Salvini, who often criticized Francisco for his defense of migrants.
Source: Reuters // Featured image: REUTERS / Yara Nardi