Italy’s hardline deputy PM Matteo Salvini says ‘little ethnic shops’ must close by 9pm

Italy’s hard-line interior minister has called for "little ethnic shops" – convenience stores run mostly by Asian immigrants – to have to close by 9pm because they are a focus for drug dealers and "hell raisers".

Matteo Salvini, who is also the head of the anti-immigrant League party, said he would add an amendment to a security bill going through parliament.

"(There will be an amendment) for the closure by 21:00 of little ethnic shops, which have become a meeting place for drug deals and people who raise hell," Mr Salvini, wrote on Facebook.

He denied that the move was racist or specifically targeted at migrant-run businesses. Instead it was to "limit" supposed anti-social behaviour in and around the grocery shops.

In recent years, hundreds of convenience stores, or "mini-markets" as they are known to Italians, have opened up in cities like Rome, Milan, Florence and Turin. Many are run by Bangladeshi immigrants.

But Mr Salvini’s proposal attracted strong condemnation at home and abroad.

"This racism is dressed (up) in fake patriotism. Salvini is dangerously and cowardly dividing Italy to cover the League’s incapacity to deliver on their electoral promises," said Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and Brexit coordinator.

Mauro Bussoni, the head of retail association Confesercenti, said: "You cannot make a law that discriminates against some business owners and not others."

The bill being put forward by the populist coalition on security includes measures which will make it harder for migrants to claim humanitarian protection and easier to expel failed asylum seekers.

The decree is part of the coalition’s campaign to reduce the number of migrants arriving by boat from North Africa and to repatriate those who are denied asylum status.

Migrants or refugees who request asylum will have their applications denied if they are considered “socially dangerous” or convicted of crimes.

Since the coalition came to power in June, Mr Salvini has cracked down hard on migrants and refugees, closing Italy’s ports to NGO rescue vessels operating in the Mediterranean.