As Migration Surges, Italy Weighs Barring Some Rescue Boats

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30 June, 2017

The government has given its ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, a mandate to formally raise the issue with European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, the sources said.

Migrants waits to disembark from the Vos Hestia ship as they arrives in the Crotone harbour, Italy, after being rescued by " Save the Children" crew in the Mediterranean sea off the Libya coast, June 21, 2017.

Several aid ships chartered by privately-funded organisations from France or Germany are taking part in efforts to rescue migrants from the Mediterranean. Italy has become the main point of arrival for all of those rescued off the coast of Libya.

In the first five months of this year, 60,228 migrants arrived in Italy by boat. Other countries, such as Poland, have refused to host asylum seekers and lighten Italy's load. The figure represents a 13 percent increase over the same period in 2016 and does not include the roughly 10,000 migrants saved in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days who are still in transit towards Italian shores.

The surge in migrants this week prompted Italy's interior minister, Marco Minniti, to cancel a trip to Washington to address the growing humanitarian crisis, which is quickly morphing into a political one for the country's left-leaning coalition government.

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Italy's right-wing Forza Italia party has campaigned for the denial of landing rights to ships carrying migrants.

"In everything we do, we all have a humanitarian obligation to save lives", European Union commissioner Avramopolous said on Wednesday.

But Avramopoulos's office said any change in Italian policy regarding aid groups should be discussed ahead of time to give them time to prepare.

Also among Wednesday's arrivals was a Spanish Navy ship bringing over 900 migrants to the Italian island of Sardinia, including 126 women - six of them pregnant - and about 50 youngsters, some of them without accompanying adults. Often that country is Italy.

About 73,380 migrants have already been taken to Italy this year, up 14 per cent year on year, as traffickers exploit the political turmoil in Libya to run a multimillion dollar smuggling operation.


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