Reversing Policy, Italy Will Allow Rescue Migrant Boats to Dock
In a reversal of recent policy, Italy has announced it will allow migrant rescue ships to dock at its ports, at least for the next five weeks. After a discussion between Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas both vowed their respective countries will go on taking in seafaring immigrants while the EU works out an immigration solution.
Italy Policy Recently to Refuse Migrant Rescue Boats
In recent months Italy was criticized internationally for not allowing immigrant rescue boats to dock in the country. In June the rescue boat MV Aquarius rescued over 600 immigrants in one night. The following day both Malta and Italy refused to allow the boat to dock despite being only 35 miles offshore of Italy and 27 miles offshore of Malta.
The incident sparked an international incident as France called Italy irresponsible for not allowing the boat to dock.
“In cases of distress, those with the closest coastline have a responsibility to respond,” French spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said.
Spain ultimately stepped in and allowed the boat to dock, but it took the overcrowded boat three days to make the journey. During the journey, two Italian naval ships escorted the Aquarius and intermittently dropped off food and supplies.
In early July Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini vowed to not allow one more migrant boat ashore.
“My aim is not to have even one boat come here,” he said. “The goal is for people who have the right to come to Italy, to come here by plane, preferably in first class.”
Immigration an Unfair Burden on Italy
Italy’s chief complaint with immigration and the EU is that they and other coastal countries are taking on more than their fair share of immigrants while other EU countries look away. Countries along the Mediterranean coast tend to be the first stop for many immigrants.
Milanesi stated his government is committed to helping stranded immigrants at sea while continuing to get EU and NATO partners to rise up to their part of the bargain. He insisted a priority was to ensure that the burden of immigration did not fall all on one country.
“During this time, we ensure that ships with rescued people can dock in Italy,” he told reporters, confirming the “will of our government” to hammer out “common positions with our EU and NATO partners.”
But he added that it was a priority “to overhaul the operational rules so as to avoid all the rescued people landing in one country.”
Maas agreed that Italy alone should not be left to cater to the plight of seafaring migrants. He said there are regional agreements in place which all EU nations must uphold, and that sea rescues are a major part of these agreements.
He reiterated that Germany is committed to finding a solution to immigration problems, and that all the European nations must rise up in solidarity to this challenge.
With Italy’s new populist government threatening to turn back sea migrants, EU members said it is time to review the strategic operations of EU naval commands.
“The aim remains to reach a consensus on future action within a European framework and in an orderly process,” an EU member stated.