Europe’s refugee crisis

Italy turns away another rescue boat carrying 200 migrants

It’s the second time in two weeks that Rome has turned away a vessel carrying people rescued from drowning in the Mediterranean

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 2:38pm

A ship carrying more than 200 migrants is being blocked from entering Italian waters, the second time in two weeks that a new government in Rome has turned away a vessel carrying people rescued from drowning in the Mediterranean.

The vessel – named Lifeline and operated by the German aid group Mission Lifeline – is currently in Maltese waters with 224 people on board whom its crew pulled from the Mediterranean.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has indicated that the ship may not dock in Italy and that Malta should take it in. Last week, he refused to allow the Aquarius, a ship that picked up hundreds of people, to dock. It eventually went to Spain.

In a video posted on Facebook on Thursday, he criticised Mission Lifeline for not heeding the instructions of Italian or Libyan authorities.

“They risk the lives of the migrants on the dinghy, refuse to listen to Italian and Libyan authorities and intervene so they can load this valuable cargo of humans – of human flesh – on board,” Salvini said.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday that 220 people had drowned off the coast of Libya in recent days while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

The figure was a “conservative estimate”, UN spokesman William Spindler said in Geneva on Friday.

German rescue organisation Sea-Eye responded to the news on its Twitter feed, saying: “220 people die within three days and Matteo Salvini is talking about ‘human flesh.’ #horrific.”

The new Italian government has intensified existing Italian complaints that the country is taking in more than its fair share of refugees thanks to the number of people fleeing Africa by boat in recent months, many of them heading to Italy, one of the closest points in Europe to their starting point in Libya.

Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party is one of two coalition partners in the new government. He has argued that other countries need to do take in more refugees and that those picked up should be diverted to other countries.