Italy sends SOS on migrants
Facing emergency, Rome threatens EU with closing ports for rescue boats arrivals
30 June, 2017
Italy took a formal step to protest the migrant emergency with the European Commission last Wednesday, saying that foreign ships may be stopped from docking in Italian ports unless the situation improves, ANSA reported. With over 12,000 migrants landing in the last 48 hours, Rome said the situation, with its impact on social and political life, was "unsustainable" and "at the limit".
The government gave its ambassador to the EU Maurizio Massari a mandate to formally raise the issue with European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
A possible block on Italian ports would concern ships operated by non-governmental organisations in the central Mediterranean, news wires reported. But it would not for the moment affect naval units inserted in the mission of Frontex, the EU border control agency, and in EUNAVFOR MED, the operation that is tasked with combatting human traffickers in the Sicilian Channel and in which 25 European nations are taking part.
If Italy goes ahead with its threat, EU Frontex operations would not be up for discussion since they are governed by international law, Commission spokesperson also noted. Avramopoulos's office said that any change in Italian policy regarding aid groups should be discussed ahead of time to give them time to prepare. The situation would be discussed at an informal EU interior ministers' meeting next week in Tallin, it added.
European countries must "stop turning the other way" on the migrant emergency "because that is no longer sustainable," Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni said. "In these hours," he said, "we are grappling with the difficult management of migratory flows." " We can speak about solutions and concerns but I want to recall that it is a whole country that is mobilising to manage this emergency, to govern the flows, to combat traffickers." On a visit in Ottawa, Italian President Sergio Mattarella stressed that this is “an epochal phenomenon, which cannot be cancelled by putting up walls but must be governed with seriousness."
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told ANSA on the phone that "a cry of alarm coming from Italy (on migrants) is an SOS, not a request for money. The EU cannot turn its back on Italy," Tajani added: "After the closure of the Balkan Route, it is indispensable to also close the central Mediterranean one, we can't have any more delays in solving the problem."