Italian coastguards rescue over 8000 migrants off Libyan coast in 48 hours

30 June, 2017, 00:27 | Author: Andrea Terry
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Italy has taken in 82,000 refugees and migrants so far this year, a third more than a year ago. The total number of migrants reaching Europe by sea so far this year is less than half that counted in the same period of 2016, thanks to a deal between the European Union and Turkey which blocked a once-busy route to Greece, but the number coming to Italy has risen.

Ambassador Maurizio Massari met with the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, yesterday to explain that as a result of thousands of new arrivals Italy is approaching the limit of its capacity.

Italy, however, is mulling a ban on non-Italian flagged rescue ships disembarking migrants in Italian ports, though not those participating in the EU's Frontex rescue operation, officials said. All of those rescued off the coast of Libya are brought to Italy, often by private charities. In municipal elections this month the coalition lost ground to center-right parties such as Matteo Salvini's Northern League, which has called for a "stop to the invasion".

Both Germany and France have said Italy, after the closure of the Turkey route, has been left alone to fend with the refugee crisis for too long.


After meeting Ambassador Massari on Wednesday, EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos praised Italy's exemplary behavior to date and agreed: "Italy is right that the situation is untenable". And even the maverick radical Five Star Movement is moving to a more anti-immigrant position, calling for a halt to any new migrants being lodged in Rome.

Most of the people who are rescued in the Mediterranean are those who try attempting the crossing from crisis-hit Libya as it is a gateway to Europe for migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Syria and Bangladesh. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has also accused other European nations of "looking the other way" as more than 73,000 migrants have landed in Italy this year.

"But what we're also saying is that any change in policy should first be discussed with other member states, and also properly communicated to the NGOs who are running these boats so that they have time to prepare".

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