Italy plans to prevent ships operating for "international missions" from bringing migrants and asylum-seekers rescued off Libya to Italian ports, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Sunday.
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"On Thursday, I will put on the European table at Innsbruck a demand to close Italian ports to ships of international missions," Salvini said on his Twitter account, referring to a meeting with his EU counterparts in the Austrian town next week. "Unfortunately, Italy's governments over the past five years signed accords allowing all boats to bring their migrants in Italy."
Salvini did not name any of the several missions currently patrolling the Mediterranean, but typical among them is the Sophia, EU's anti-trafficking operation set up in 2015 to fight human trafficking, which is under Italian command with headquarters in Rome. As for the Mediterranean maritime border patrol mission Triton, launched in 2014 by Frontex, it uses NATO ships in some of its operations.
Overnight Saturday, 106 migrants arrived in the eastern Sicilian port of Messina after they were rescued Thursday off of Libya by the Irish naval vessel Samuel Beckett.
Last month, the French rescue ship Aquarius and the German boat Lifeline were forced to divert to Spain and Malta respectively.
For the time being, Italy must still accept migrants rescued by its own coast guard or by cargo ships asked to intervene by the Italian coast guard. The Innsbruck meeting will be the first of EU justice and interior ministers under the new Austrian presidency of the EU.
Aid groups and United Nations' agencies on Friday asked Italy to open its ports to rescue ships because the policy could have a high human cost. More migrants could die at sea, or they could be trapped indefinitely in inhumane detention centers, they said.