Monday, 23 July, 2018

Row over ship with 600 migrants aboard adrift off Italy

Italy 'to shut ports' to boat carrying over 600 refugees Italy turns away a rescue boat carrying 600 migrants including 123 children and seven pregnant women
Ellis Copeland | 11 June, 2018, 16:45

"This is not an inhumane act", said Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, in charge of Italy's ports and coast guard.

"The island can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting worldwide conventions", said the statement, which was signed by Salvini and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports.

Some 400 of the migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius. "Malta will observe prevailing laws".

Last week, Mr Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

Malta, for its part, has consistently refused to take in migrants, citing its small size and limited capacities.

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing, xenophobic League.

"Malta is not acting, France rejects them, and Europe doesn't care", Salvini wrote.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning".

Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to worldwide law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on global maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

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Earlier on Sunday, the charity SOS Mediterranee on Twitter that its rescue ship, The Aquarius, had taken on board 629 refugees and migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.

The UN refugee agency on Monday called on Italy and Malta to immediately allow a boat carrying hundreds of migrants to dock, describing the situation as "an urgent humanitarian imperative".

"If anyone thinks I won't move a muscle while we have another summer of landings, landings and more landings, well that's not what I'm going to do", Salvini told reporters.

The Mayor of Palermo, one of those cities keen to defy Italy's new populist, anti-establishment left-right coalition government, caught headlines with his remarks when he said of his decision to open the port: "Palermo in ancient Greek meant "complete port".

Left-wing mayor Luigi De Magistris said he would welcome in the humanitarian boat and added: "Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives". "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a "safe harbour" to these people in accordance with worldwide law".

SOS Mediterranee said Maltese search-and-rescue authorities were contacted by their Italian counterparts "to find the best solution for the well-being and safety" of the people on the ship. It is not possible for Malta to say "no" to every request for help.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for an EU-wide border protection force, as well as joint asylum authority and collective standards for granting or refusing applications for protection.

Moreover, Chochetel said that "fundamentally, the principle of rescue at sea must not be put into doubt through incidents like this".

Migrants on April 23 watch the Sicilian coast from the Aquarius vessel as they arrive in Trapani, Italy.

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