European MP Magid Magid calls Italy's Matteo Salvini a coward

The British MEP made a passionate defence of migrants crossing the Mediterranean

Green Party MEP candidate and former Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid speaks during the launch of the Green Party's European election campaign in central London on May 8, 2019. / AFP / Tolga Akmen
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A newly elected member of the European Parliament has made his mark with a searing criticism of far-right Italian politician Matteo Salvini.

British representative Magid Magid called Mr Salvini a coward before an emergency meeting of EU ministers on migration on Thursday.

Mr Magid criticised the Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior's hard-line approach to migrant rescues in the Mediterranean.

"What kind of grown man watches a child drowning, gasping for breath, and turns his back?” he asked.

“Mr Salvini is a coward who boasts about detaining and arresting a lifesaver; a coward who decides to make an enemy of the victims of war and those who are being dispossessed.”

Mr Magid, 30, was mayor of the northern British city of Sheffield until May, when he was elected to represent the region of Yorkshire and the Humber in the EU Parliament.

He came to the UK in 1994 as a child refugee from Somalia.

Mr Magid mounted a passionate defence of Sea-Watch captain Carola Rakete, who Mr Salvini has called a criminal.

The Sea-Watch 3 skipper was arrested in June for taking 40 migrants to Lampedusa in Italy, despite being banned from doing so, and for ramming a police boat.

Mr Magid told Mr Salvini and his supporters: “You are all going to lose. I promise you that.”

Italy has insisted that the Libyan coastguard intervene in all off-shore rescues and the migrants be taken back to Libya.

Charities say that would be against maritime law because Libya is not considered a safe harbour, as shown by the bombing of a migrant centre last week, which killed dozens.

They also say that Italy is breaching maritime law by not providing a safe port to ships carrying out rescues at sea.

Mr Salvini says that the presence of the ships encourages smugglers, although the charities deny the claim.

He says Italy has been unfairly stuck with the burden of managing arrivals from northern Africa for the rest of Europe.