Italy to seize NGO rescue ships as migrant row deepens | 2018-06-22 | daily-sun.com

Italy to seize NGO rescue ships as migrant row deepens

BBC     22nd June, 2018 01:08:18 printer

Italy to seize NGO rescue ships as migrant row deepens

 

Italy said it will seize two migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean, amid a deepening row over migrants.

 

Two German NGO ships carrying migrants "will be seized" to determine their legal status.

 

The move comes as French President Emmanuel Macron attacked the "leprosy" of anti-EU feeling, angering Italy's new populist government.

 

Italy sparked the fresh row earlier this month when it refused to take in the Aquarius rescue ship.

 

Carrying 630 migrants rescued off the North African coast, the ship eventually sailed to Spain after being turned away by both Italy and Malta.

 

Leaders from 10 EU member states will meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss how best to stem the flow of migrants to the bloc.

 

The Italian government earlier said it will not sign up to any EU plan unless it makes helping Italy a priority, while Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - known as the Visegrad Group - said they will boycott the talks.

 

The UN refugee agency on Thursday said it was "shocked and saddened" by the recent drowning of 220 people off the coast of Libya, and called for urgent action.

 

Relations will be further strained after President Macron's comments.

 

The UN refugee agency on Thursday said it was "shocked and saddened" by the recent drowning of 220 people off the coast of Libya, and called for urgent action.

 

Why is Italy seizing the ships?

 

The two ships, Lifeline and Seesuchs, belong to the German body Mission Lifeline.

 

According to the NGO, Lifeline rescued 224 migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday morning.

 

Italy's interior minister and leader of the right-wing League party, Matteo Salvini, said on Facebook the ship should "go to Holland", as it was said to be flying under a Dutch flag, and should not dock in Italy.

 

However, the Dutch delegation to the EU later clarified in a tweet that the ships are not registered in the Netherlands, and not flying under its flag.

 

Italy's Infrastructure Minister Danilo Toninelli later said the ship broke the law by taking the migrants even though the Libyan coastguard had already intervened.

 

He said Italy would seize both the Lifeline and the Seesuchs to determine their legal status, and said Italy would "once again save the migrants".

 

Mission Lifeline later posted an image on Twitter of a registration document they say proves the ships sail under the Dutch flag.

 

Why the tough words from Italy?

 

Italy's new coalition government wants to deport half a million undocumented migrants, many of whom are housed in squalid reception centres. More than 600,000 have reached Italy from Libya in the past four years.


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