Italy’s hard-line interior minister and deputy prime minister sparked outrage on Thursday after announcing a proposed amendment to his security decree that would force “little ethnic shops” to close by 9 p.m.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right League party, announced the proposal during a Facebook Live on Thursday, arguing that foreign-owned grocery shops have become “meeting places for drunkards, pushers, hell-raisers.”
“There are people who drink beer and whiskey until 3am, and (relieve themselves) on the doors and gates of (neighboring) houses,” Salvini said.
The interior minister defended his statements, sayinig his proposed amendment was not an attack on foreign stores.
“It is not an initiative against foreign shops, but it is to limit the abuses and irregularities of certain shops – almost all of which are managed by foreign citizens – which have become havens for people who raise hell,” Salvini said.
The Italian official drew sharp criticism from fellow politicians and industry leaders, with one consumer association chief stating it was unfair to “generalize.”
Andrea Marcucci, group leader at the Italian Senate for the centre-left Democratic party, warned that imposing curfews on businesses was among the “premises of a regime.”
“Di Maio and Salvini are preparing a disastrous maneuver for the country, putting their hands on the savings of Italians,” Marcucci said, referring to the coalition government’s widely criticized budget.
“In the meantime, they impose curfew at ethnic stores and they only want enslaved newspapers and TV.”
Marco Bussoni, the general secretary of Confesercenti, another Italian retail association, said that Salvini cannot create a law that discriminates against certain business owners.
He added that businesses have the right to remain open, regardless of whether they are owned by an Italian or a foreigner, so long as they abide by the law.
Salvini, who ran on an anti-immigration platform ahead of Italy’s fractious general election in March, announced a proposed security decree in September that aims to abolish key protections for migrants.
The proposal would suspend refugee applications for those who are deemed “socially dangerous,” which Salvini claimed was a “step forward to making Italy safer.”
The Italian government has 60 days from the date the decree was proposed to debate and amend the proposal before it becomes law.
Salvini has previously drawn criticism for turning away ships carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean from Italian ports.
Notably, the official rejected the Aquarius in June, stranding the ship carrying 629 migrants in the Mediterranean for over a week before it was accepted by the Spanish government.
He has since pledged to “expel offenders and fake refugees” and to stop providing safe passage to “crafty migrants not escaping war.”