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Italy shuts ports to migrant boat, asks Malta to open its doors

12 June, 2018, 07:06 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Spain accepts 629 stranded migrants after Italy and Malta refused them

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.

"The rescue ship's crew pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers" unseaworthy boats on Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women.

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

Not everyone in Italy agreed with Salvini's hard line; the mayors of a number of southern cities, including Naples, Palermo and Messina, said they would welcome the migrants.

Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said "saving lives is a duty, turning Italy into a huge refugee camp is not". On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez - a Socialist in his second week on the job - pointedly mentioned that it was an "obligation" to give "these 600 people a safe harbor".

"We will continue, where possible, carrying out individual & humanitarian emergency medical evacuations", Muscat wrote on Twitter.




Migrants sit aboard MV Aquarius, a rescue vessel chartered by SOS-Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at the Mediterranean sea between Libya and Italy on May 9, 2018.

Initially, the Italian navy took the lead in the Mediterranean with a massive rescue effort.

The passengers had been rescued in six different operations, according to SOS Mediterranée. The island nation has reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 previous year, according to U.N. statistics. But it wasn't certain if the voyage was feasible given the distance and how long the rescue vessel had been at sea. The proposed changes would arguably increase the pressure on Italy without ensuring a more equitable distribution of responsibility. Since the start of the year, almost 14,000 migrants have arrived in Italy; an additional 500 have died attempting the journey.

Talking to the paper, the legal expert said: "The decision to close the ports is more than legitimate".

The League promised voters during Italy's general election that it would take a tough stance on immigration, the BBC reported.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat also refused to take in the Aquarius ship of the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee. Italy shouldn't have to shoulder the burden by itself, he added, when other European countries aren't doing their fair share. A series of Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius all helped with the rescue. A few of the migrants were said to be injured or ill from beatings or torture, including chemical burns, they sustained from human smugglers in Libya. He announced the decision to close the ports Sunday just as nearly seven million Italians were voting in local elections in 761 municipalities. "And then more people will die".

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