Anti-migrant party urges Italians to oppose 'those invading our country'
The leader of an Italian party that hopes to capitalise on growing resentment of migrants and asylum-seekers told supporters it would be "splendid" if he wins national elections and his government can issue one-way tickets home to undeserving refugees.
Matteo Salvini wants to propel his anti-migrant Northern League, which was founded in 1991 as a regional party in Italy's affluent north, to its first premiership in the national election set for early 2018.
To do so, Mr Salvini needs to build support in the south, an underdeveloped area of Italy the League has long denigrated as living off government aid.
Many of the thousands of people who turned out for his Rome rally on Sunday did come from southern Italy.
One of them was Adriana Domeniconi, who travelled by bus from Matera in the "instep" of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula.
"We're no longer about north vs. south, but against those invading our country," she said.
Ms Domeniconi was referring to the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and economic migrants that have received shelter in Italy after being rescued at sea from traffickers' boats setting out from the Libyan coast.
Opinion surveys have found that many Italians blame the newcomers for crime.
"The Salvini government will have the (nation's) doors wide open for women and children who are fleeing war, but not for those bringing war to our home," Mr Salvini told the rally.
For the latter, "we need one-way tickets to send them back".
The advertised goal of the rally was to oppose a proposed citizenship law that the centre-left, Democrat-led government of premier Paolo Gentiloni is supporting in Parliament before the legislature's term expires in March.