Leader of Italy’s far-right League party Matteo Salvini is under fire after a visit to a working-class neighborhood in Bologna when he seemingly accused a Tunisian teenager of dealing drugs.
Ahead of a key regional election in the country, Matteo visited a working-class neighborhood, rang the doorbell of a Tunisian family and asked, “Is it true that you are drug dealers as your neighbors, tell me?”
The 17-year-old son teenager who answered the door said his father was deeply saddened by the episode.
The teenager denied all allegations to Salvini.
“I don’t deal drugs, my dad works hard to provide for us. I go to school and play soccer like everyone else my age,” he said, adding that his older brother had problems with drugs in the past but is now clean and no longer lives there.
The episode sparked a diplomatic reaction by Tunisia’s Ambassador to Italy Moez Sinaoui who told Al Arabiya English this type of conduct was unacceptable, particularly from a senator of the Italian Republic.
“You cannot stigmatize the entire [Tunisian] community. There are excellent relations between our two countries. These incidents damage the image of the Italian people in the world,” said Sinaoui.
Sinaoui expressed his dismay in a letter to the president of the Italian Senate, Elisabetta Casellati, stating he was “appalled by the deplorable act of provocation which also represents a violation of privacy.”
This is not the first time Salvini’s comments have sparked a diplomatic row with Tunisia. In 2018, Salvini accused Tunisia of sending ‘convicts’ on migrant boats across the Mediterranean.
The Bologna incident captured on tape has now gone viral in Italy. It showed Senator Salvini’s remarks: “Oh, so both father and son are dealers? Nice family!” as well as the family’s name and address.
Salvini’s Lega party is expected to score significant results in key regional elections this weekend in the region of Emilia-Romagna which has traditionally voted center-left.
“Salvini is in full election campaign mode and has chosen to play the extremism card. It is directed toward foreigners in general,” Faouzi M’rabet, Director of the Tunisian socio-cultural center, told Al Arabiya English.