'Unthinkable' to close ports to Italian rescue ships, says Italian Deputy PM

July 12 2018

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It is "unthinkable" to bar Italian ships from national ports, Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said Wednesday in an apparent attack on hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for refusing to allow an Italian vessel to dock in Italy after it rescued 67 migrants off Libya at the weekend.

"If it is an Italian ship that intervened in circumstances that need to be clarified, we are compelled to allow it to dock," he told TV channel La7's Omnibus programme.

"Italy's ports are only closed to charity rescue ships that don't respect the rules," said Di Maio, who is also the Welfare and Industry Minister and leads the Five-Star Movement - the biggest party in parliament.

The 67 migrants were due on Wednesday to disembark at an as-yet unspecified Italian port after they were transferred to an Italian coastguard vessel, the Diciotto, from the commercial ship Vos Thalassa that rescued them on Sunday.

The Italian-flagged Vos Thalassa responded to a distress call from a boat adrift off the Libyan coast and picked up the migrants after arriving on the scene before the Libyan coastguard, who are responsible for rescues in Libyan coastal waters.

"It is unthinkable to bar an Italian ship although I too share am concerned about what is happening in the Mediterranean," Di Maio said.

  • Source
  • IANS