Italy vows migrant ship cannot dock as Paris-Rome clash escalates
ROME: Italy said on Wednesday its decision to shut its ports to hundred of migrants aboard a charity ship was firm, as a clash between Rome and Paris over migrant policy heated up. “We will not change (our position) on ships belonging to non-governmental organizations,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“Ships belonging to foreign organizations and flying foreign flags cannot dictate Italy’s immigration policy,” said Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League.
Since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta refused to let them dock, some 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been in the central Mediterranean aboard the-Aquarius.
Some of the migrants on the overcrowded Aquarius, who are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were moved onto to two Italian ships from the navy and coastguard and are headed for the port of Valencia, Spain.
The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy’s new populist government, has heightened tensions within the European Union over migration.
While Spain adopted a diplomatic tone with Italy when it announced it would take the migrants, relations between Rome and Paris have deteriorated in an explosion of accusations and counter-accusations.