Published: Sun, June 24, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Italy turns away another rescue boat carrying 200 migrants

Italy turns away another rescue boat carrying 200 migrants

Italy has refused it entry, saying Lifeline had acted improperly by taking on board migrants who the Italian coast guard had assigned to the Libyan coast guard.

But Italy's Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said his country had faced 650,000 arrivals by sea over the past four years, 430,000 asylum requests and the hosting of 170,000 "alleged refugees" for an overall cost of more than 5 billion euros (US$5.8 billion). "These boats can forget about reaching Italy, I want to stop the business of trafficking and mafia".

They met on June 20 to discuss immigration ahead of the European mini-summit on June 24.

Spanish authorities said they had rescued almost 600 migrants trying to make the perilous crossing from Africa, while off the coast of Libya coastguards recovered bodies of five migrants and picked up 210 survivors, the coastguard said. Global law states that Malta must respond if they are the nearest safe port at rescue or if requested by the ship's captain. Mission Lifeline said they aided in that rescue.

Earlier this month Salvini triggered an EU-wide row when he barred the French charity-run Aquarius rescue ship, carrying 630 migrants, from docking in Italy. Malta also refused to take it in and the ship was later welcomed by Spain.

"We are aware of the challenges you face, both in the realm of security and in civil society development", Merkel said, adding that she wished the government success in implementing "needed reforms".

However, the Maltese army says it is providing humanitarian supplies to the stranded vessel.

As the two neighbours squabbled, a Danish cargo ship carrying 113 migrants was stationed near the Sicilian port of Pozzallo waiting for instructions from Italy.

The figure was a "conservative estimate", United Nations spokesman William Spindler said in Geneva on Friday.

With plans to reform Europe's asylum laws bogged down, European Union leaders will in coming days affirm their intention to stop migrants leaving north African shores by paying countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to hold people until their eligibility for asylum can be established.

Spanish Education Minister Isabel Celaa said in a statement on Friday that Josep Borrell, Spain's minister for foreign affairs, had spoken with authorities in Malta to offer aid for another ship turned away by Italy.

Plans for an emergency meeting of 10 European Union leaders on Sunday before a full European Union summit at the end of the week were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy's new prime minister said a draft paper on migration had been pulled due to a clash with Merkel.

After allowing in more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, sparking a strong xenophobic backlash, Merkel is now fighting for her political future.

It has given her two weeks to reach agreement with European partners.

Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) on Monday gave Merkel two weeks to get a deal with European allies after Germany's coalition government nearly cracked apart as Merkel's Christian Democrats and their sister party rowed over immigration.

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