Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 16, 2018

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini earlier urged Malta to rescue some 450 migrants on board a large boat that at the time was in Malta's search-and-rescue area, saying "this boat can not and must not arrive" in Italy.

"Just like the other European Union prime ministers, I got a copy of a letter from Italian Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte.in which he asks the European Union to take care of some of 450 people now stranded at sea", Babis tweeted.

Earlier Saturday, Italy and Malta were at loggerheads again over whose responsibility it was to offer the 450 migrants on board the two EU Frontex vessels a safe harbour.

But the Czech Republic rebuffed the appeal, calling the distribution plan a "road to hell".

Italy has refused to allow a commercial vessel flying an Italian flag to bring ashore rescued migrants, apparently keeping up a hardline policy on new arrivals as it presses European allies to share the burden of hosting an influx of displaced people. The same intransigence is being experienced by the Italian government.

"This is the solidarity and responsibility we have always asked from Europe and now, after the results obtained at the last European Council, it is starting to become reality", Conte said on Facebook on Sunday, referring to the distribution of the rescued people.

"Let's continue on this path with firmness and respect for human rights", he added.

Elsewhere this weekend, Spanish rescuers separately saved more than 340 migrants from the Mediterranean. Since their home countries often don't facilitate repatriation, Italy has been left to shelter many of them, although thousands have slipped out of Italy to seek work or relatives in northern Europe.

According to a map of the migrant boat's position provided buy Malta, it is now between Lampedusa and Linosa, both Italian islands and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta.

But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, and on Saturday, insisted it had respected "all of its obligations under worldwide conventions" concerning those rescued at sea. They included people suffering from dehydration, pregnant women and some babies, including a newborn a few days old.

Among the evacuated was a woman weighing 35 kilos (77 pounds) after months in Libya.

Sky TG24 TV reported that numerous rescued passengers originally are from Eritrea. "The vessel is now in Italian territorial waters", the statement said.

"Germany and Italy have agreed that Germany will accept 50 migrants in this case, as part of ongoing talks about more intense bilateral cooperation on asylum", a German government spokeswoman told the DPA news agency. Italy came in second with about 250,000.

At present it is unclear whether the migrants will be permitted to debark at Italian ports or whether they will be directed elsewhere.

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