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Donald Trump praises Italy’s hard-line immigration policies at meeting with PM Giuseppe Conte

‘I agree very much with what you are doing with respect to migration, and illegal immigration, and even legal immigration,’ Trump tells Conte

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 3:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 6:10am

US President Donald Trump praised Italy’s increasingly hard-line approach to immigration on Monday, at the start of a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House.

“I agree very much with what you are doing with respect to migration, and illegal immigration, and even legal immigration,” Trump told Conte in the Oval Office.

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“He has taken a very firm stance on the border, a stance that few countries have taken,” Trump said, addressing reporters. “And frankly he is doing the right thing in my opinion.”

Conte took office last month promising to bring radical change to Italy, including more generous welfare provisions and a crackdown on immigration.

Immigration was a major election issue after the nation experienced an influx of hundreds of thousands of mostly African asylum seekers. Italy has seen more than 650,000 migrants reach its shores since 2014.

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Conte has said that his government would end “the immigration business”.

The new Italian government is looking to limit the number of migrants it lets into the country and has shut its ports to humanitarian rescue ships, saying it is bearing an unfair burden within the European Union for dealing with asylum seekers.

Conte said he was looking for ways to stabilise Libya, a main departure point for migrants from North Africa trying to reach Europe.

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“In agreement with President Trump, I’m going to organise a conference on Libya,” Conte said. “We would like to deal [with] and discuss all of the issues related to the Libyan people, involving all of the stakeholders, actors, protagonists in the whole of the Mediterranean.”

Conte believes a conference in Rome, backed by the United States, will help Italy take a lead role in resolving the issues.

Conte said that Trump had agreed Italy would become “a reference point in Europe and the main interlocutor for the main issues that need to be faced … with particular reference to Libya”.