The 62-year-old Toni Iwobi, who was the first Nigerian to be elected into the Italy’s parliament, has declared support for mass deportation of Nigerians and immigrants from other countries.
Before his emergence as a senator, Iwobi’s party, League Party, had insisted that all immigrants should be supported.
When the party fielded Iwobi as its senatorial candidate, many believed that it has soften its stand on anti-immigration.
However, recent outburst by Iwobi has shown that the allegation that the party is fuelling racism seems to be true.
Iwobi was born in Nigeria but came to Italy on a student visa about 40 years ago. He went on to marry an Italian woman before starting his own IT company. He has since been a supporter of the League for more than two decades and has been campaigning with the slogan #StopInvasion, which is in reference to the over 690,000 migrants who have landed on Italian shores from North Africa since 2013.
He has, along with party leader Matteo Salvini, been arguing that illegal immigration into Italy resulted in an increase in racism.
Before running for senator, Iwobi became a town councillor for the League at Spirano in 1995.
He subsequently became the head of Salvini’s national committee on immigration, where he helped write the League’s anti-migration platform which came up with several proposals on for instance how to facilitate the deportation of migrants, how to reject migrants rescued by NGOs from the Mediterranean and how to get countries to agree to repatriate their nationals from Italy.
Even though his views may appear surprising considering his own background, Iwobi says “he is not against immigrants who, like himself, come to Italy legally”.
“Racism means thinking yourself better than others, while in the movement I find many firm positions, but also a lot of respect,” he told the Corriere della Sera.
Iwobi, a Catholic, argues that people should travel to Italy legally, just like he did. “I came on a student visa,” he said.
He added: “During that period over 40 years ago, coming here meant needing a visa. My party is fighting to restore legal immigration.
“Party goals include making it easier to deport migrants deemed to be in the country illegally, refusing to accept those without documents arriving on charity rescue ships, and developing EU-wide economic aid projects with countries of origin to stop people coming.
“Salvini appointing me as the head of immigration shows that he knows exactly what he is doing.
“Anybody running away from a country because of conflict and war has to be hosted.
“But anybody leaving their country for the wrong reason and travelling to others in the wrong way has to be stopped. Immigration shouldn’t cost thousands of lives at sea and neither should it cost a cent to the host country.
“I want to stress that the League isn’t against immigration as such – nobody in this world can stop people moving, it’s in the human DNA. But we are against illegal immigration.”