2018-06-16 23:23:10 UTC
Italy will continue to block rescue boats carrying migrants looking to
dock in its ports, its interior minister announced Saturday. The
position escalates the new populist governments fight with other
European countries on migration and asylum, thorny issues that have
spurred intense debate in the U.S. as well.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the leader of
the nationalist League Party, said in a Facebook statement Saturday
that in addition to an NGO ship that was refused entry last week, two
other ships have arrived off the coast of Libya -- he said those boats
won't be taken, either.
Italy, he said, no longer wants to be complicit in the business of
illegal immigration, and such boats will have to find other
non-Italian ports at which to dock.
Salvinis League, which campaigned predominantly on tensions over mass
migration, formed a coalition government with the anti-establishment
5-Star Movement in May and has so far shown no signs of backing down
on its election rhetoric since forming the government in May.
Italy was condemned by some European countries, particularly France,
for turning away a boat last week that was carrying 629 migrants.
The boat is expected to arrive in Spain late Saturday after Spains
socialist government offered the boat harbor.
While humanitarian groups have claimed that the rescue boats are
aiding migrants stranded off the Libyan coast, Salvini and others have
accused such organizations of operating a taxi service for potential
illegals and has called on other countries to share the burden of
taking asylum seekers.
But after French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of cynical
and irresponsible behavior, the government responded by summoning
the French ambassador, demanding an apology and challenging Macron to
take in more asylum seekers.
On Friday, Macron met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in
Paris and both leaders took a more conciliatory approach.
"The proper response is European, but the existing European response
has not adapted," Macron said, while Conte called Macron "my friend
Under European Union law, migrants must apply for asylum in the first
country they enter. But this places a burden on countries such as
Greece and Italy. The Eurosceptic Italian government is likely to push
for a reform of those laws ahead of a summit in Brussels later this
Italys tough stance on migration comes as populist and anti-migration
parties surge across the continent, while those associated with more
open immigration policies are being punished politically.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is fighting to keep her coalition
government together after she has rejected a proposal by Interior
Minister Horst Seehofer to turn away migrants who have already
registered in other European countries. He also wants to block
migrants whose asylum applications have already been rejected.
But Merkel has rejected the move, fearing that it could fracture the
E.U. even further. Seehofer has threatened to forge ahead with the
policy, a move that could well bring down Merkels government and lead
to new elections.