Italy dug its heels in on Saturday after conservative Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let 450 migrants aboard two military vessels dock at Italian ports, marking the country’s latest stand against the large-scale influx of predominantly North African refugees.
The migrants had originally set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early Friday as it passed through Maltese waters. After being denied safe harbor in Italy, they were transferred to the two separate vessels near the Italian island of Linosa – close to Malta, after which Salvini suggested they “head south, down to Libya or Malta.” One of the two ships is operated by EU border agency Frontex, while the other belongs to Italy’s tax police.
In an exchange of messages, emails and phonecalls on Friday, 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, insisting that those on board only wanted to reach Italy.
On Saturday morning, they were transferred to two military vessels but where the vessels will dock remains unclear. -France24
The new standoff began just hours after Italy allowed 67 migrants to disembark in Sicily from an Italian coast guard ship on Thursday.
“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” said Salvini during talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.