Italy bans more migrant rescue boats

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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ROME, Italy (AFP) — Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini yesterday warned another migrant rescue mission off the Libyan coast that it would not be allowed to land its “human cargo” at an Italian port.

The new right-wing and anti-immigrant Italian Government last week banned the French NGO-operated vessel Aquarius, with more than 600 rescued migrants on board, from docking in Italy, causing uproar and a sharp spat with France.

Spain subsequently offered to take Aquarius, and it is expected at the port of Valencia today.

Salvini showed no sign yesterday of softening his position.

“While the Aquarius is sailing towards Spain, two other Dutch NGO-operated vessels ( Lifeline and Seefuchs) have arrived off the Libyan coast to wait for their human cargos once the people smugglers abandon them,” Salvini said in a Facebook post.

“These people should know that Italy no longer wants to be any part of this business of clandestine immigration and they will have to look for other ports to go to,” he said.

“As minister and as a father, I take this action for the benefit of all,” he added.

After Rome's decision to ban the Aquarius, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met on Friday and agreed that the European Union (EU) should set up asylum processing centres in Africa to prevent “voyages of death”.

At their meeting in Paris, Macron and Conte also demanded “profound” changes to the EU's asylum rules which put the migrant burden on their port of entry to Europe — mainly Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of Catania in Sicily said that NGOs providing assistance to migrants in the Mediterranean “are part of a deeply flawed system, which gives traffickers and unscrupulous criminals access to Europe”.

On the sidelines of a conference on immigration in his city, Carmelo Zuccaro said yesterday the NGOs' work “does not correspond to the sense of humanity or solidarity”.

In response, NGOs insisted their actions were aimed at saving lives on a migratory route that has claimed thousands of lives in recent years in the Mediterranean.

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