Friday 19 October 2018 \

 

Italy, Malta standoff leaves refugee rescue boat at sea

Italy is refusing to let a humanitarian ship carrying more than 600 refugees and migrants to dock at its ports, but has instead asked Malta take them in.
 
Malta brushed off the request, saying it had nothing to do with the rescue operation, opening the prospect of a diplomatic rift between the two European Union allies.
 
The move by Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League, represents an opening gambit to make good on his electoral promises to halt the flow of migrants into the country.
 
“Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” Mr Salvini wrote on Facebook. “From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.” 
 
More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but rescues have increased in recent days, presenting Mr Salvini with his first test as minister.
 
“My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy,” Mr Salvini said, using the Twitter hashtag “We are shutting the ports”.
 
However, Mr Salvini does not have authority over the ports and it was not immediately clear if his line would hold. The mayor of Naples, who has repeatedly clashed with the League leader, said he would welcome in the humanitarian boat.
 
“Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives,” he said.
 

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