Italy's far right govt rejects migrants boats on its shore from Malta's waters
Italy cannot open its ports to two migrant rescue boats currently sheltering in Maltese waters as Europe argues over where the vessels should dock, hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said. "A German and a Dutch (flagged) ship located in Malta's waters - but yet again Italy is expected to give them a safe port of call," Salvini wrote on Facebook on Friday. "Italy has already taken in the best part of a million people in recent years - a country where over a million children live in absolute poverty," Salvini went on.
Italy will send medical, food supplies and clothes to the two ships, Salvini said, repeating his frequent call for an end to the trafficking of migrants. "Human trafficking must be stopped. Those who are fleeing war should arrive in Italy by plane, as many have done, not aboard people-smuggling boats... the fewer migrants who set sail, the fewer will perish," Salvini's post went on.
The Dutch-flagged Seawatch3, operated by a German NGO, has 32 migrants on board including women, young children and unaccompanied minors who were rescued on December 22. A second German charity ship, Sea Eye, with 17 migrants aboard who were saved on December 29, is also sheltering in Maltese waters from high winds and rough seas.
The European Commission is continuing its "intense" contacts with member states to find a solution for the 49 stranded migrants, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said. Two dozen humanitarian groups, including Amnesty International and the UN International Organization for Migration, as well as 300 academics this week called on the European Union to offer a safe port to both vessels.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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