Italy’s interior minister refuses to let rescue ship carrying 224 migrants dock

Cornelia Mascio
Giugno 22, 2018

It came after Merkel's minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition unless she took a hard line on the issue.

The draft summit declaration has gone in the bin because Italy said no to keeping migrants out of Germany.

Nevertheless, Merkel had "clarified matters" by suggesting that the apparent leak of Sunday's final communique on Wednesday, had been a "misunderstanding". "The draft text released yesterday will be shelved", Conte wrote on Facebook, adding that he would now go to Brussels at the weekend. "We are in constructive talks with Italy".

Italy was heading for a fresh showdown with a humanitarian organisation on Friday after a Dutch-flagged ship rescued hundreds of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean.

"I am convening an informal working meeting on migration and asylum issues in Brussels on Sunday, in order to work with a group of Heads of State or Government of Member States interested in finding European solutions ahead of the upcoming #EUCO (European Council)", Juncker said on Twitter today.

Italy's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, told the news agency Ansa after a cabinet meeting late Thursday that the Lifeline remained in Libyan waters, according to Italian coast guard officials.

After allowing in more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, sparking a strong backlash against immigration, Ms Merkel is now fighting for her political future. There have been 41,000 sea arrivals so far this year, data shows.

Most are in coastal states of arrival like Italy and Greece, or rich destination states like Germany and Sweden, where governments have felt heat from voters over the new arrivals.

Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday hosted a meeting of the "Visegrad 4" former Communist countries, with the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

"In the last four years, Italy has taken in 650,000 boat migrants and received 450,000 requests for asylum".

"We understand that there a mini-summit on Sunday but we would like to state clearly that the prime ministers of V4 agreed that they will not go to that".

Kickl said they were examining the possibility of setting up centers in the Balkans for asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected, saying "if they stay in the country, there is no difference between a negative and a positive response".

Sunday's summit was "unacceptable", Polish prime minister Matuesz Morawiecki said. "Welcome thousands of migrants and then we can talk", said Salvini.

All 28 European states are unlikely to fulfill at their June 28-29 meeting the demand of Merkel's coalition partner for a bloc-wide plan to spread the burden of hosting asylum seakers more widely across the EU.

Merkel opposes that idea as it would require rigid checks on the EU's mostly open internal borders.

EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "This is just a draft to be used during the discussion".

He said the European Union should also work more with Africa, tighten borders further and explore setting up bases outside its territory where it would decide on asylum requests before claimants make it to European Union soil, and hold them there if they were rejected. But Avramopoulos said such bases would not be "Guantanamo Bay for migrants", in a reference to the widely-condemned USA detention centre in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, set up to hold terrorism suspects.

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