(Rome) Italian Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, one of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s closest allies, caused outrage on Tuesday when he warned against “ethnic replacement” of Italians by migrants.

“We cannot resign ourselves to the idea of ​​ethnic replacement: Italians have fewer children, so let’s replace them with others. This is not the way to go,” said Mr. Lollobrigida, a member of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party led by Ms. Meloni and brother-in-law of the prime minister.

The Fratelli d’Italia party won the elections in 2022 with the promise of reviving Italy’s low birth rate and curbing the arrival of migrants through the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr. Lollobrigida’s statements, made during a congress in Rome, were stigmatized by the opposition parties.

Elly Schlein, secretary of the center-left Democratic Party, condemned “repugnant remarks” that had “smells of white supremacy.”

Moreover, she noted, Mr. Lollobrigida made the remarks when Italian President Sergio Mattarella was attending a commemoration at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

Opponents accuse Ms Meloni’s coalition, which includes Matteo Salvini’s (far-right) League, of stoking anti-migrant sentiments in Italy.

Some 32,700 people arrived on Italian shores in 2023, up from 8,400 during the same period in 2022, a rise that prompted Ms Meloni’s coalition government to declare a six-month state of emergency last week.