Incoming migrants have become a political pawn between the government and opposition as politicians in Italy’s northern provinces say they refuse to welcome the new arrivals.
Nearly 6,000 people are expected to reach Italian shores after major rescue missions plucked thousands of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from wooden and rubber boats that left Libyan coasts last weekend.
Three wealthy northern regions in Italy are opposing the center-left government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi by refusing to provide shelter to incoming migrants.
Roberto Maroni, president of Italy’s richest province Lombardy, said he would address mayors and prefects in his region to make them refuse the resettlement of refugees in the area as allocated by the government. He said that those municipalities that decide to welcome refugees would have their funding from the region cut, according to news agency AFP.
The newly-elected president of the northwestern region of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, supported the position, saying "We will not receive any more migrants."
Luca Zaia, the president of Italy’s northwestern province Veneto also joined the anti-migrant call. He said the region was "like a bomb ready to go off. The social tensions are absolutely crazy."
The refusal to cooperate with the government comes as the Italian police arrested 44 people on Thursday suspected of being part of a network of corrupt politicians, officials and business people in Rome allegedly involved in rigging public contracts to manage migrant reception centers.
The arrests are a result of a recent Italian investigation that uncovered a system designed to ensure a cartel won lucrative contracts to manage migrant reception centers, according to Reuters.
The migrant centers, often run on contract by cooperative social organizations, have proved to be a major source of profit which the cartel sought to monopolize by fixing public contracts and excluding rival bidders.