Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

The ban was implemented by Italy's new right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who wants to stop migrants arriving at Italian coasts.

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

"According to the maritime law, it's Malta that must send its own ships and open its own ports", he said on Twitter.

Despite the controversy over who would take the migrants, Conte authorised the disembarkation of all 43 women and 14 children on board.

Babis reiterated his stance that boats should be stopped and turned back and that migrants should be helped in their countries instead of being allowed into the European Union.

Italy said Friday that Malta was obliged to save the migrants from a boat launched by Libya-based human traffickers.

According to a map of the migrant boat's position provided buy Malta, it is now between Lampedusa and Linosa, both Italian islands and more than 100 nautical miles from 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.

The Rome government also threatened to block vessels aligned with the EU's border agency Frontex, which also rescue migrants from sinking or unseaworthy vessels in the Mediterranean.

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On the docks, activists protested Italy's hard-line position.

An Italian coast guard vessel carrying 67 rescued migrants was allowed to dock at the Sicilian port of Trapani on Thursday, but not to disembark.

Eight people, all women and children, were transported to the island of Lampedusa aboard Coast Guard patrol boats for health reasons.

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. Mr. Salvini has promised to keep his promise and not give in to pressure tactics. "Malta not only demands but offers solidarity", he tweeted.

Responding to critics, Salvini said that everything he has done in his first 43 days on the job has been aimed at the security of the Italian people.

Malta said it had fulfilled its obligations by monitoring the vessel to see if it needed help.

Spokesman Kurt Farrugia said on Twitter that when Valletta was notified of the ship's presence it was 110 nautical miles from Malta and 53 nautical miles from Lampedusa. "Until I have clarity, I personally as interior minister, as vice premier and as a father, won't let them get off".

Hours before Mattarella stepped into the case, Salvini had vowed not to authorise them to disembark, saying: "If someone does it in my place, he will assume the judicial, moral and political responsibility for it".

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