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Italy threatens to shut ports to vessels carryIng refugees

Italy threatens to shut ports to vessels carryIng refugees

Posted June. 30, 2017 07:29,   

Updated June. 30, 2017 07:47


Italy has decided to consider ways to ban stop ships that are not Italian-registered from entering its ports, as increasing numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea on boats from Africa. The move is seen as a demand that the European Union share Italy’s burdens in taking in African migrants.

Rome's EU ambassador, Maurizio Massari, met EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday to deliver a letter calling for the EU’s procedure for accepting refugees. In the letter, the envoy said Italy has reached “saturation point” and that his country is considering drastically changing its refugee policy.

Italy, the closest country to reach from Libya on sea routes, has been the main point of arrival for refugees from Africa and the Middle East at European shores. On Italian waters on the Mediterranean Sea, not only Italian coast guards but also vessels of Britain or other EU member states or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rescue boat people and bring them to Italian shores.

Due to brisker rescue efforts by non-Italian or NGOs’ ships, Italy has seen an upsurge in the number of refugees arriving in the country, causing domestic political issues. It is projected that up to 250,000 refugees will arrive at Italian ports this year, compared with 181,000 last year.

There are controversies over whether Italy’s extreme measures of rejecting rescue ships’ arrivals are legitimate under international law. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea requires all signatory states to help vessels in distress at sea and have primary responsibility for rescue operations. The EU takes Italy’s appeal as a gesture of asking for help and plans to provide additional economic assistance.

Dong-Joo Cho djc@donga.com