Italy again blocks Aquarius migrant rescue ship from docking

Italy again blocks Aquarius migrant rescue ship from docking
2 min read
13 August, 2018
The country's far-right government has repeatedly blocked migrant rescue ships from docking at its ports.
Matteo Salvini at the swearing in ceremony of Italy's new government [Getty]
Italy denied on Monday the rescue ship Aquarius safe harbour to dock at its ports, sparking another stand off with EU member states over migrants.

The Aquarius, which is now in waters between Italy and Malta, picked up migrants in two separate rescue operations. The ship is run jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Italy's decision comes after Malta said on Saturday it would not allow the ship to dock and Spain said its ports were not safe. 

The Aquarius also made headlines in June for being stuck at sea for nine days after Italy denied its ports to all rescue ships. It's newly sworn in right-wing government at the time called the rescue ships a "taxi service".

Commenting on Monday, Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted: "It [the Aquarius] can go where it wants, not in Italy!"

"Stop human traffickers and their accomplices," he added.

More than 650,000 migrants have landed on Italy's shores since 2014. Rome has accused its EU peers of not taking in enough migrants landing along the Mediterranean.

In June, Salvini flew to Libya in a bid to block future migrant flows. His government struck a "friendship pact" with Libya soon after that reactivated a 2008 agreement to allow migrants to be sent back to Libya in exchange for foreign investment.

Meanwhile, on Monday EU border agency Frontex said it counted 73,500 "irregular border crossings" into the bloc so far this year via the sea and the Western Balkans route, more than 40 percent fewer than in the first seven months of 2017.

However, the proportion of deaths per journey across the Mediterranean is at an all-time high. One in 19 migrants who attempt the perilous Libya-Italy sea route have died this year.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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