Italy's new populist Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has made good on his warning last weekend that "the good times for illegals are over" - writing an urgent letter ordering Malta to accept a ship carrying 629 shipwrecked North African migrants currently sitting off the Italian coast - calling Malta the "safest port" for the passengers, and advising that Rome will not offer refuge.
Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has written an urgent letter to the Valletta authorities to communicate that this is the "safest port", so it is up to them to give the green light to the 'docking. At the moment there was no answer and in the meantime it was decided to prevent Aquarius from choosing a landing in our country as an alternative. -roma.corriere.it (translated)
Malta has not responded to Salvini's letter. If they do not agree to open their ports and provide relief - which they have been hesitant to do in recent years, the vessel will be stranded - setting the stage for an international crisis if they cannot land elsewhere.
"Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons," Salvini wrote on Facebook. "From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration."
"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy," Salvini said, using the hashtag #chiudimoiporti "We will shut the ports".
The unprecedented decision to block entry was made by Salvini as well as Italy's Minister of Infrastructure, Danilo Toninelli, following several recent dockings - and is a signal that the country's new populist government will no longer bear the brunt of unchecked migration from North Africa into Europe.
The last two days have been marked by the departure of over a thousand migrants towards the European coasts. In the first weekend as Minister of the Interior of Salvini, in the ports of Reggio Calabria and Pozzallo were three ships landed with about 500 refugees on board. During the night another 600 people were rescued and transhipped on the Aquarius ship, the object of the clash with Malta. Aquarius is the only NGO currently present in the Mediterranean: on board now has exactly 629 refugees, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and 7 pregnant women. -Republica.it
The pro-migrant NGO ship in question, Aquarius, belongs to SOS Mediterranee under the flag of Gibralter, and has been ferrying North African migrants into Europe for several years.
Their activities have drawn the ire of EU nationalist groups such as Defend Europe, who have tracked and previously attempted to block the ship from reaching Italy.
Last Saturday, the recently elected Salvini said "the good times for illegals is over -...