On Thursday, Italy will make a proposal to its EU partners to have migrants rescued at sea sent to other countries. That is according to Italy’s interior minister.
Italy’s right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wants EU sea missions to take rescued migrants away from Italian shores. He vowed to bring up the issue on Thursday at a meeting of European ministers in Austria.
“After having stopped the NGO ships, I’ll ask European partners on Thursday in Innsbruck to block from Italian ports the arrival of ships currently on international missions in the Mediterranean,” Salvini said in a statement.
The minister also said that he wants to block Frontex ships with migrants from docking at Italian ports.
The EU’s border control force, Frontex, operates a search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea using air and sea assistance from a number of countries.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Salvini wrote, “With our government the music has changed and will change.”
Prior to that the minister said, “Before receiving even one asylum seeker from another European country, we want to see a precise commitment — giving the timetable, costs, means, men and resources — on how the EU plans to help us defend our external borders.”
Last week, Italy’s government announced that it will provide 10 motor launches and two ships, as well as equipment and other material to the Libyan Coast Guard, in order to enhance its capacity to bring back illegal migrants from the Mediterranean Sea.
Italy wants illegal immigrants who look to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe mainland, to be taken back to North Africa, rather than let them enter the country. The position of the Italian government is that Libya is not as dangerous for the migrants as it once was.
Last month, Italy refused to take in immigrant rescue ships, sparking a diplomatic row in Europe. Spanish non-governmental organization Proactiva deployed their ship called The Open Arms after a rubber boat with 59 migrants was denied entry to land on Italian shores.
In June, Matteo Salvini wrote on his Twitter page that the country would not accept the ship. However, the Spanish government later allowed the vessel to enter the port of Barcelona.
The Aquarius ship with more than 600 people on board had to dock in Valencia after Italy refused to take it in.
Over 650,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, have come to the Italian shores since 2014. Many later continued north, toward other European countries.