Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called for a Europe-wide alliance against “mass immigration”.

“I think of a league of Leagues in Europe, which unites all the free movements that want to defend their borders and the wellbeing of their children,” Salvini told his far-right League party’s annual conference on July 1.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Salvini has forged alliances with other far-right European groups including France’s National Rally.

He told the July 1 conference that next year’s European Parliament elections will be a referendum on “a Europe without borders… and a Europe that protects its citizens”.

“I will tour capital cities, and not just European ones, to create an alternative to this Europe founded on exploitation… [and] mass immigration.”

According to AFP, around 50,000 people came from all over Italy to attend his speech in the northern port of Pontida. They were drawn by Salvini’s “Italians first” rallying cry.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Salvini told the crowd, to hear the “calls of love coming from Pontida”.

Eva, an activist at the rally from the northern city of Bergamo, said: “I hope Italy will finally understand that being part of the League is not folklore, it is a philosophy of life.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was sworn in June 1 at the head of the first far-right, populist government in an EU founding member, forged by the League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).