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ITALY’S far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is refusing to let a ship with more than 600 rescued migrants to dock after pledging to “stop the filthy business of illegal immigration.”
The boat, which contains at least seven pregnant women and 123 unaccompanied children among its 629 passengers, remained stranded in the Mediterranean today after the government turned it away yesterday.
But mayors across southern Italy said they would defy the government and open their ports to the Aquarius — a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee.
SOS Mediterrannee spokeswoman Sophie Beau warned that the vessel is dangerously over capacity, adding: “We cannot imagine that political concerns prevail over the humanitarian situation of these hundreds of people just saved from drowning, hours after the hell that is Libya.”
Mr Salvini called on the country to “close the ports” after Malta declined a request to dock there, saying international law required the ship to be taken to an Italian port.
“From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration,” the anti-immigration minister warned.
But he faced opposition from mayors in Palermo, Naples, Messina and Reggio Calabria who all said they would open their ports to allow the ship to dock and passengers to disembark.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando said: “Palermo in ancient Greek meant ‘complete port.’ We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea. We will not stop now.
“Salvini is violating international law. He has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-right government.”
Italy insists it is fulfilling its obligations and acting within the law regarding immigration.
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