This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 22 September, 2019
Advertisement

450 migrants stranded at sea as Italy and Malta argue over who should take them

The migrants had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel.

File image of migrants off Lampedusa
File image of migrants off Lampedusa
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

ANOTHER 450 MIGRANTS on board two Frontex vessels were stranded at sea on Saturday as Italy and Malta locked horns over whose responsibility it was to offer them safe harbour.

The migrants had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early yesterday while passing through waters under Malta’s jurisdiction.

But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has authority over the country’s ports, yesterday refused to let them dock in his latest show of intransigence over migrants stranded at sea.

And on Saturday, as those on board were transferred to two vessels belonging to the EU border agency Frontex, he insisted they be instructed to “head south, to Libya or Malta”.

“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” he said in talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his remarks carried by Italian news agencies.

Cited by the Italian media, cabinet sources said Conte was going to push for them to be immediately transferred to other European countries, otherwise they would not be allowed to land.

In an exchange of messages, emails and phone calls, Rome had tried to push Valetta to take responsibility for those on board the wooden boat.

But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, and on Saturday, insisted it had respected “all of its obligations under international conventions” concerning those rescued at sea.

- Jumping overboard -

This morning, as the two Frontex vessels approached the wooden boat, several migrants threw themselves overboard, prompting immediate efforts to rescue them from the water, Italian sources said.

Eight women and children were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.

The new standoff kicked in just hours after 67 migrants were allowed to disembark from an Italian coast guard ship in Sicily late on Thursday.

Salvini, who took office when Italy’s new populist government came to power on June 1, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned charity rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

Last month, the French rescue ship Aquarius and the German boat Lifeline, who between them were carrying hundreds of migrants, were forced to divert to Spain and Malta respectively after Italy turned them away.

Italy, Greece and Spain have been on the front line of the migrant crisis, with Europe deeply divided over how to share the burden of the massive influx of people seeking to create a new life in Europe.

© – AFP 2018

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (72)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel