Salvini forces 629 migrants back to sea
A total of 629 migrants are the victims of the new Italian government’s immigration rhetoric before they reach Italy.
A rescue ship funded by a charity carrying migrants is stranded in the Mediterranean after Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new interior minister, refused to allow it to dock.
On board are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women and the crew say they have enough food for another two to three days at sea.
Those on board were rescued in several separate operations in the Mediterranean over the previous 24 hours, all of which had been carried out at the request of Italy’s authorities, who are now refusing disembarkation.
The Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre told the Aquarius yesterday (Sunday) to “standby in current position,” MSF tweeted.
Salvini posted on Facebook that Italy was saying “no” to human trafficking.
“In the Mediterranean Sea, there are boats carrying Dutch, Spanish, Gibraltar and British flags. There are NGOs from Spain and Germany, meanwhile, there is also Malta that does not welcome anyone.
“There is France too, that refuses and pushes back at their border. There is Spain that protects their own borders with weapons, well, that means all of Europe is minding its own private interest,” Salvini posted.
“Starting today Italy will commence to say NO to human trafficking, NO to the business of clandestine immigration.
“My objective is to guarantee a peaceful life to all these people in Africa and to our children in Italy.”
Salvini’s far-right Lega is outspoken on immigration and won it a record number of votes in March’s election. He has promised to deport around 500,000 illegal migrants from Italy.
He was sworn in as the country’s interior minister on June 1 after months of political deadlock.
The vessel, the Aquarius, which is operated jointly by Medecine Sans Frontiers and SOS Medeterranee, was turned away by the Italian authorities despite having been told to rescue the migrants by the same coordination centre.
The vessel was told to ask Malta to provide a disembarkation port. The tiny Mediterranean republic also refused.
The Maltese Ministry for Home Affairs said it was not responsible for the rescue effort by the Aquarius.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that he had taken a call from his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, on the issue.
“Malta is in full conformity with international obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports. We will continue, where possible, carrying out individual and humanitarian emergency medical evacuations,” the Maltese leader tweeted.
Muscat added: “We are concerned at #Italy authorities’ directions given to #Acquarius on high seas. They manifestly go against international rules, and risk creating a dangerous situation for all those involved.”
Southern Italy bears much of the impact of the migrant crisis. Picture credit: YouTube