Italy threatens to close ports to NGO migrant rescue ships
ROME | Italy threatened Wednesday to close its ports to aid groups rescuing migrants off Libya’s coast as it struggles to cope with the highest rate of rescues this year. Italy’s ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, raised the issue during a meeting with EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos as a half-dozen different ships offloaded some of the more than 10,000 migrants rescued in recent days.
“Italy is right that the situation is untenable along the Central Mediterranean route,” Mr. Avramopoulos said in a statement, adding that other EU members concurred and that the bloc was ready to increase financial assistance to help Italy manage the flows.
European-based humanitarian rescue ships have flooded the waters off Libya’s coast in the past year to pick up migrants, though some of those groups have also been accused by Italian prosecutors of alleged collusion with Libyan-based smugglers.