A migrant reception center on the Italian island of Sicily, which was once the largest in Europe, has been officially shut down.

Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini attended the closure on Tuesday and live-streamed himself walking around the facility and speaking to journalists.

The leader of the populist League party has been a critical opponent of the Mineo center, which housed 4,100 people at its peak in 2014.

In 2017, he spent the night in the facility and claimed to have seen what he called “organized migration” designed to “replace Italian people with other people, Italian workers with other workers for the regional industry to profit from.

Interior Ministry figures show that 3,073 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, compared with 17,000 in the same period last year and 85,000 a year earlier.

Italy is one of the main entry points for migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa for Europe.

Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, has declared war on charity rescue vessels, barring their entry into Italian ports in recent weeks.

He has also butted heads with the European Union‘s Mediterranean Sea patrol mission over where migrants and refugees should disembark.

The Mineo center used to be former housing complex for the United States military, the center had been the cause of local controversy for some time due to issues of overcrowding, corruption and crime.

In January, police broke up a Nigerian organised drug-dealing group based within the center, and a prostitution ring.

The AFP news agency also reported that the migrants and refugees at the camp were prepared to work for 10-20 euros ($11-22) a day during the orange harvest, angering locals who could not work for such low wages.

During his visit, Salvini said the government was “working to find new jobs for the center’s ex-workers” but warned that “Sicily, Catania and Mineo cannot base their future on immigration”.

Al Jazeera / ABC Flash Point News 2019.

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