The Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini has been told his “division and hate” is not welcome in the UK, after tickets for events in his name went on sale in London and Liverpool.
Italy’s former deputy prime minister and interior minister is under investigation on possible kidnapping charges after preventing 131 migrants and refugees from disembarking from a coastguard ship last year.
One of the highest-profile rightwing populists in Europe, Salvini is anti-immigration and has called for a “mass cleansing” of his country.
On Tuesday it emerged that tickets were on sale at £28 each for events apparently hosted by Lega nel Mondo, a European network established by Salvini in September 2018.
The event pages suggest Salvini will be speaking at as yet undisclosed venues in London and Liverpool as well as Dublin in March and April. Lega nel Mondo and the organisers behind the event pages did not respond to a request for comment.
The plans, first reported by the Liverpool Echo, prompted threats of protests against Salvini.
Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, said: “Our region has a long and proud record of openness and tolerance. Our diversity is our strength and we have long been a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, religions and races.
“Should he go ahead with his visit, I’m sure the only audience he’ll find here is one that won’t be shy in telling him what they think of fascists like him. He should learn the lessons that his far-right friends have on their past visits to our region: that bigotry is anathema, and hatred and intolerance will never be welcomed here.”
Weyman Bennett, the joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said his group would hold a peaceful protest against Salvini’s events. “He’s someone that should be resisted both for his misogyny and his racism, spreading division and hate across the whole of Europe. He stands in the tradition of Mussolini,” he said.
Sabby Dhalu, a co-convenor of Stand Up to Racism, said: “Matteo Salvini is a hatemonger who revels in his notoriety for persecuting migrants and refugees. He described criminal proceedings against him for kidnapping asylum seekers as medals for having defended Italy’s borders. It’s vital we all raise our voices to make sure this visit cannot happen, and prepare to protest if it does.”
Salvini has been placed under investigation five times in less than two years. He is the subject of one ongoing trial, and has been named in dozens of lawsuits for alleged defamation and instigation of hatred.
If found guilty in all the various lawsuits, Salvini could face prison and be ordered to pay thousands of euros in fines.