Italy asks Malta to take in, seize migrant rescue ship

Erika Holt
June 24, 2018

Italy's far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini on Thursday said Italy would not be pushed around at an emergency summit on migration, scheduled for Sunday in Brussels, after making threats to boycott the event.

"With regards to the MV LIFELINE, according to MRCC Rome, the SAR cases were carried out within the Libyan Search and Rescue Region and were initially handled by MRCC Rome, with the Libyan Authority assuming the responsibility of the SAR cases".

And the Danish Maersk Line, the world's leading shipping container company, said one of its vessels rescued 113 migrants off the Italian coast on Saturday.

"But the boat did not following these instructions", he said, adding that the next mistake was when Italy ordered the boat to sail towards Malta.

The crew of the ship had spotted the migrants early Thursday morning.

The Italian coastguard would escort Lifeline "to an Italian port to conduct the probe" and impound the ship, he said.

Salvini has likened such rescue ships to taxi services that finish the job for migrant smugglers.

Salvini on Thursday said he would not allow the ship operated by the German NGO Mission Lifeline to enter Italian ports, saying that it had acted improperly by taking on board the 224 migrants that the Italian coast guard had assigned to the Libyan coast guard to rescue.

Malta will be evacuating one person from the MV Lifeline rescue vessel and has provided humanitarian supplies, despite the fact that Malta does not have any obligations to do so, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

"The rescue, which happened in the Libyan rescue zone, was being coordinated by the Italian authorities and later on by the Libyan authorities".

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After meeting at Chancellor Angela Merkel's Meseberg retreat outside Berlin, she and France's Emmanuel Macron presented the new budget as a means of boosting the bloc's economic competitiveness.

Without more worldwide money, they say, refugees living in dire conditions in Lebanon will start leaving for Europe.

"We know climate change isn't a matter of faith", she told an global climate meeting in Berlin.

"We are aware of the challenges you face, both in the realm of security and in civil society development", Merkel said, adding that she wished the government success in implementing "needed reforms".

"He wants to show that Italy has been spending more political capital, financial capital, more of its coastguards and defence ressources on this issue than other countries", said Ryan Heath, the political editor of Politico Brussels website.

But the government was placated after Merkel told them the text had been shelved.

The tiny island nation has not taken in large numbers of people rescued at sea, while Italy has seen 650,000 arrivals since 2014.

Arrivals are down some 80 percent this year to around 14,500, as people have turned to other routes.

"She's been identified with this whole issue of refugees and migration - I wouldn't reduce her entire chancellorship to this, but nevertheless she has widely been identified with it", Mr Gaier said.

Macron - who has passionately called for bold European Union reforms as his answer to populist, rightwing and eurosceptic forces - has been at pains to work closely with Merkel, veteran leader of the bloc's biggest economy. "Welcome thousands of migrants and then we can talk", he said.

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