EU holds migration crisis talks as Italy threatens to close ports

European ministers are to meet for crisis talks as Italy warns the influx of migrants into the country is unsustainable

3 July 2017, 8:19am
About 650 migrants were rescued and brought to the Italian port of Catania on Saturday
About 650 migrants were rescued and brought to the Italian port of Catania on Saturday
Germany, France, Spain and Italy's interior ministers are holding emergency talks on the migrant crisis, after Italy threatened to block rescue ships due to the “unsustainable” flows of people.

The ministers will discuss the situation in Paris on Sunday, and consider the request from Rome for rescue ships with foreign flags to disembark in other countries.

Italy has threatened to close its ports and impound rescue ships run by aid agencies carrying people from Libya.

Speaking on Sunday, Italian interior minister Marco Minniti told newspaper Il Messaggero: “If the only ports refugees are taken to are Italian, something is not working.”

“We are under enormous pressure,” he added.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni also accused other European nations of “looking the other way”.

More than 500,000 migrants have landed at Italian ports since 2014, most arriving in Sicily, and the numbers are on the rise.

Many people have also died while crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats. The UN estimates 2,030 people died in 2017 alone. 

The situation in Italy was described as “an unfolding tragedy” by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“But this cannot be an Italian problem alone,” he said. “It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach."