Migration: Italian minister wants sanctions against Malta

After Italy refuses port entry to its own coastguard vessel that rescued 177 migrants at sea, Italian minister calls for sanctions against Malta

The Italian coastguard ship has been stopped from entering Lampedusa by Italian authorities
The Italian coastguard ship has been stopped from entering Lampedusa by Italian authorities

An Italian coastguard vessel is being refused entry into the port of Lampedusa for a fourth day running as Italy’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli takes it out on Malta.

Toninelli called for sanctions against Malta in a tweet on Sunday, claiming that the Italian coastguard vessel intervened to save lives after Malta refused assistance. The vessel remains outside the port of Lampedusa.

Malta has insisted that an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat had offered assistance but the migrants had refused, opting to continue their voyage on the high seas.

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Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia has said that the migrant vessel had right of free passage on the high seas and it would have been in breach of international law if the Maltese army intervened to stop them once the migrants were not in distress.

Subsequently, the Italian coastguard vessel, Diciotti, took the migrants on board but was refused entry into Lampedusa by the Italian authorities.

Malta is insisting that if the Italian authorities consider the Diciotti’s actions as a rescue, the closest port of call was still Lampedusa.

But with the Diciotti blocked outside the port of Lampedusa, Toninelli this morning upped the ante on Malta, insisting that Diciotti’s actions showed that Italy never reneged on its duty to save lives at sea.

“Malta’s behaviour… merits sanctions,” Toninelli tweeted as he called on the EU to open its ports and offer Italy solidarity.

His brash talk was followed by that of Italy’s hard-line Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini, who threatened to take the migrants back to Libya if the EU did not step in.

Forced repatriation to Libya would fall foul of the Geneva Convention and had already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights several years ago in a case against Italy.

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