Posts Tagged ‘Mediterranean’

Migrant rescue ship docks in Spain’s Mallorca — “One survivor, others dead.”

July 21, 2018

 

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Rescue workers from the Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO retrieve the bodies of an adult and a child amid the drifting remains of a destroyed migrant boat off the Libyan coast, on Tuesday July 17, 2018. A migrant rescue aid group accused Libya’s coast guard of abandoning three people in the Mediterranean Sea, including an adult woman and a toddler who died, after intercepting some 160 Europe-bound migrants on Monday near the shores of the northern African country. (Proactiva Open Arms via AP)

A Spanish rescue vessel carrying two dead bodies and a survivor from a migrant boat wreck has docked in a Mallorca port after a four-day journey across the Mediterranean Sea.

The aid group Proactiva Open Arms had found the bodies of a small boy and a woman on Tuesday and accused Libya’s coast guards of abandoning them after intercepting dozens of Europe-bound migrants.

Video posted by the group showing the floating bodies and the rescue of another woman still alive caused outrage across Europe.

The rescuers had refused to dock in Italy saying they didn’t trust how Italian authorities would handle an investigation into the wreckage. Rome and the European Union have trained and financed the Libyan coast guard to halt the flow of migration.

The Associated Press

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Italy in new migrant boat standoff with Malta

July 13, 2018

Italy on Friday urged Malta to go to the aid of an overcrowded boat carrying hundreds of migrants, only hours after the Italian president intervened to end a dispute within the ruling coalition over rescued immigrants.

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 Diciotti ship of the Italian Coast Guard, with 67 migrants on board rescued 4 days ago by the Vos Thalassa freighter, enters the Sicilian port of Trapani, southern Italy, Thursday, July 12, 2018

There have been two similar stand-offs with Malta since Italy’s new populist government, which pairs the far-right League party with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, took power on June 1.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also leader of the League, said Italy would not take in the migrants because they were Malta’s responsibility. Malta, a small island nation, has generally refused to take in large numbers of boat migrants.

Italy has seen more than 650,000 arrivals on its shores since 2014.

“Since this morning a large boat with 450 illegal immigrants on board has been in waters patrolled by Malta, which has taken responsibility for it,” Salvini wrote on Facebook.

The boats also often carry refugees, as did one with some 30 Syrians who were picked up by the Italian coast guard earlier on Friday. They were taken to the island of Lampedusa.

Salvini added: “But hours later no one has moved, and the boat is again heading toward Italy … This boat cannot and must not arrive.”

Minutes later, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is a member of 5-Star, also urged Malta to act.

“According to the maritime law, it’s Malta that must send its own ships and open its own ports,” he said on Twitter. “Our coast guard can act, if needed, in support, but Malta should immediately do its duty.”

A spokesman said the Maltese government is following developments, but had no further comment. The large boats are particularly dangerous because they have often capsized in the past, trapping hundreds of people below deck as they sink.

PRESIDENT INTERVENES

Since taking office, Salvini has led a high-profile campaign to shut humanitarian rescue ships out of Italy’s ports, a move supported by 5-Star. But the League leader’s hardline immigration stance rankled his coalition allies this week.

On Thursday, Salvini had refused to allow 67 migrants brought by the country’s coast guard to a Sicilian port to disembark — even though Toninelli, who oversees the coast guard, had told them they could.

Making a rare foray into day-to-day politics, President Sergio Mattarella contacted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte late on Thursday to express his concern about the plight of migrants on the coast guard vessel.

After receiving Mattarella’s phone call, Conte, an academic who is close to 5-Star but not a member of either party, ordered the migrants be allowed off the ship. Salvini said he had learned of the president’s move with “regret and amazement”.

Now Salvini and Toninelli, whose parties were rivals before the March national elections, appear to be on the same page again.

The League and 5-Star have pledged to crackdown on migration even though arrivals from Libya, where people smugglers operate with impunity, are down more than 85 percent this year.

Though arrivals have plummeted, people are still dying at sea. In the past four weeks, since charity boats have been locked out of Italian ports, more than 600 people, including children, have drowned or gone missing at sea, the International Organization for Migration estimates.

Additional reporting by Chris Scicluna in VALLETTA; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Catherine Evans

Reuters

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The Associated Press

July 13 at 1:35 PM

ROME — The Latest on the migrant crisis in Europe (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Germany says a change to the European Union military mission in the Mediterranean should only happen after talks at the European level.

Italy’s populist government has launched a crackdown on migration and is seeking to renegotiate the mandate of Operation Sophia to prevent migrants rescued at sea from being brought to Italy.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “if there is to be a change to the Sophia mandate then it should be discussed at the European level.”

Seibert said Operation Sophia is also meant to help train the Libyan coast guard to patrol its own coastline, calling this “a very sensible mission.”

He added: “It’s important that as part of this mission innumerable lives have also been saved.”

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5:50 p.m.

Italy is insisting Malta must rescue 450 migrants at sea and give them safe harbor.

Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli has tweeted that a boat with 450 persons has been navigating for hours in Malta’s search-and-rescue area in the Mediterranean. He said “under the law of the sea, it’s Malta which must dispatch its own boats and open up” its port.

Toninelli says Italy’s coast guard can help if needed but “Malta must immediately do its duty.”

Malta didn’t immediately respond to Italy’s appeal.

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Matteo Salvini

Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says his country can no longer offer safe harbor to “fake” asylum-seekers rescued at sea.

Numbers of rescued migrants have sharply declined this year, but in recent years some 600,000 migrants arrived in Italy after rescue from smugglers’ unseaworthy boats. The majority were denied asylum.

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2:15 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says that Turkish coast guard helicopters have rescued 34 migrants who were stranded on a small island in the Aegean Sea.

Anadolu Agency said the group, which included at least five children, was trapped on Bogaz Island between the Turkish coastal resort of Cesme and the Greek island of Chios on Friday.

The migrants were evacuated to a parking lot for trucks near Cesme were medical teams were on standby.

Anadolu said the coast guard was also searching for another migrant who was reported missing by the group. There was no further information on the migrants or how they got stranded.

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1:30 p.m.

Italian prosecutors are investigating alleged threats by migrants against a tugboat crew who rescued them in the sea off Libya.

An Italian coast guard vessel brought back 67 migrants Thursday night to Trapani, in western Sicily.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has said a Sudanese and a Ghanaian among the migrants allegedly tried to hijack the tug so it wouldn’t return them to Libya, where migrants have been tortured in crowded detention centers.

Salvini had demanded the migrants not be allowed to disembark.

After President Sergio Mattarella expressed humanitarian concerns Thursday, authorities gave docking permission. Young children and women, including an injured woman, were among the migrants rescued on Sunday by the Italian tug.

The tug’s captain, saying the migrants were rebelling, asked Italy’s coast guard to take the migrants.

China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

July 10, 2018

China will provide Arab states with $20 billion in loans for economic development, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa.

The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details.

It is part of a special Chinese programme for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalisation,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

© POOL/AFP | China is seeking to expand its influence in the Middle East

Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.

Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative.

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The financial largesse has raised concerns both at home and abroad over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.

Last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its loans.

At the heart of Xi’s vision is the “Belt and Road” initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure programme billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

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The Arab states’ position at the centre of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative.

“Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticised history of trade along the Silk Road.

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The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism.

“China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi.

AFP

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European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani calls for a “blacklist” of people smugglers

July 9, 2018

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani in Libya Monday called for a “blacklist” of people smugglers to be set up to help stem the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe.

The European Union is grappling with the issue of migration from Africa and the Middle East and hammered out a controversial plan last week to curb the number of arrivals.

© AFP | European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (L) meets with Libya’s unity government Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj at his office in the capital Tripoli on July 9, 2018

People traffickers in North Africa have taken advantage of chaos in Libya since the 2011 ouster of Moamer Khadafi to send people on the perilous voyage northwards across the Mediterranean Sea.

“We have to establish a blacklist of the major traffickers… so that police and law enforcement in Africa and in Europe can work together on a common objective,” Tajani said after meeting the head of Libya’s internationally backed government in Tripoli.

“If we do not manage to destroy these criminal organisations, it will be very difficult to fight against illegal immigration.”

Italy and Greece have until now recorded the biggest numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach the European Union.

But with the route through Libya shutting down as the Libyan coast guard increases patrols, people smugglers are setting their sights westward to routes from Morocco to Spain.

Libya is split between rival factions, with the UN-backed Government of National accord under Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli opposed by strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country.

A deal between Libya’s vying leaders was brokered in May by France to hold elections this year, but scepticism remains that the vote will go ahead.

AFP

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet To Hold Missile Drill Off Syria’s Coast Ahead Of Trump-Putin Summit

July 9, 2018

According to the latest Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean task force will host naval exercises off the coast of Syria for several weeks. The starting point of the naval exercise will begin on July 11, just five days before Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet in Finland’s capital of Helsinki to discuss the complicated situation in Syria.

 

The location of the war drill will be in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Syrian coast and the Southern part of Cyprus across the port of Tartus, which will be reserved for 10 to 20 warships conducting missile drills from July 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, the Russian News Agency TASS reported.

During the exercise, the airspace will be shut down from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Moscow time. The NOTAM mentioned that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is the “only legitimate and competent authority to provide air traffic and aeronautical informational within the limits of the advisory airspace.”

“REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE NOTAMS A1006/18 AND A1007/18 DATED 05 JULY 2018 ISSUED BY THE GREEK CYPRIOT ADMINISTRATION OF SOUTHERN CYPRUS CONCERNING RUSSION NAVAL EXERCISE AND THE IMPLEMENTATION DCTS AND ROUTE PLANNING. WE WOULD LIKE TO STATE THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TURKISH REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN CYPRUS IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE AND COMPETENT AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE AIR TRAFFIC AND AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION SERVICES WITHIN THE LIMITS OF ERCAN ADVISORY AIRSPACE. THEREFORE NOTAMS A1006/18 AND A1007/18 DATED 05 JULY 2018 ISSUED BY THE GREEK CYPRIOT ADMINISTRATION OF SOUTHERN CYPRUS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED NULL AND VOID,” the NOTAM read.

TASS mentioned that the warships would conduct missile drills with a variety of precision-guided weapons. In particular, Russian frigate Admiral Essen, a guided missile frigate of the Admiral Grigorovich class – based with the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, armed with the Kalibr missile system (NATO codename: ‘Sizzler’) will be participating in the exercise.

Quoted by TASS, the press office of the Russian Black Sea Fleet reported on June 18, Buyan-class corvettes Grad Sviyazhsk and Veliky Ustyug armed with Kalibr missile systems started their journey to the Mediterranean Sea from Sevastopol.

With a dozen or more Russian warships mainly from the Black Sea Fleet gather off Syria’s coast for future missile drills ahead of the Trump-Putin summit, it seems as Moscow is sending the CIA and the Pentagon a stern warning if relations after the summit falter.

Let us hope that does not happen because Trump’s desire to remove US forces from Syria before October will enable him to declare the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” in defeating Daesh or Islamic State for the upcoming US mid-term elections.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-08/russias-black-sea-fleet-hold-missile-drill-syrias-coast-ahead-trump-putin-summit

Italy Will Give Ships To Libya To Control Migrants

July 3, 2018

Italy has said it will donate more ships and equipment to help the Libyan coast guard intercept Europe-bound migrants on the Mediterranean Sea. The news came amid reports of another shipwreck.

    
Libyan coast guard vessel in operation

Rome announced late Monday that it would send 10 motor launches, two ships, dinghies, equipment, vehicles and other material to help Libyan maritime authorities increase their capacity to manage illegal migration.

Italy’s new government wants Europe-bound migrants found in boats coming from Libya to be taken back to the North African country, rather than allowing them to move on to Europe.

In recent weeks, charity-run ships with rescued migrants onboard have been refused permission to dock in Italian ports.

The Italian government has denied that conditions in Libya are too dangerous for the migrants.

Rome’s announcement came amid reports that 63 migrants were missing after an inflatable boat sunk off the coast of Libya. A spokesman for the Libyan navy told the Agence France-Presse news agency that 41 migrants who were wearing life jackets had been rescued. According to survivors, there had been 104 people on board when the boat sank some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Tripoli.

Italian plan against illegal immigration

A “Salvini Plan,” named after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, was drawn up at a meeting of Italian and Libyan officials on Monday to “urgently strengthen” Libyan forces fighting illegal migration, according to the ANSA news agency.

On Sunday, Salvini called for a Europe-wide alliance against “mass immigration”at a meeting of his far-right League party on Sunday. “The decision to open or close ports is taken by the interior minister,” he said.

Italy provided Libya with four vessels last year, but the current resources are regarded as inadequate to the task of intercepting migrants.

Migrant arrivals have fallen by 96 percent since 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.

jm/cmk (ANSA, dpa)

Bavaria premier: we don’t want to risk German government stability

July 2, 2018

Bavaria does not want to risk the stability of the German government, state premier Markus Soeder said, adding he hoped for a compromise with Chancellor Angela Merkel in a migrant policy row among her conservatives that threatens her coalition.

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Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder

“There are many possible compromises, including some that we have offered, to reach a solution and this is very important. And we hope this is still possible. One thing is clear: the stability of the government is not a question for us,” Soeder, said at an event in Passau on Monday.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Madeline Chambers

Reuters

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German government crisis: What happens after Horst Seehofer resigns?

July 2, 2018

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said he’s considering resigning from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet and as CSU leader. DW takes a look at what the move would mean for Merkel and her government.

    
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits next to CSU leader Horst Seehofer (picture-alliance/dpa/T. Hase)

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s surprise announcement that he’s considering resigning from his cabinet post and as well as the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) has sent shockwaves through German politics.

As he enters into last-ditch talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats (CDU) over Germany’s asylum policy, DW breaks down the consequences his resignation would have for Merkel and her coalition government between the CDU, CSU and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

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How does resignation work?

Germany’s Basic Law (Constitution) doesn’t make a distinction between voluntary resignation and dismissal for federal ministers, meaning that Seehofer must ask Merkel to be dismissed.

Should Seehofer ask to be dismissed, Merkel cannot make the call by herself. She would need to propose the move to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who would then be the one to dismiss Seehofer from his interior minister post.

What could the CSU do if he leaves?

Should Seehofer decide to leave his post, his Bavarian party would then need to propose a new candidate from their ranks to be the next interior minister.

If, however, the party no longer wants to stay in the governing coalition with Merkel’s CDU and the center-left SPD, they could also pull all of their ministers out of Merkel’s cabinet, thereby ending the government’s majority in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.

What happens to Merkel’s government?

Should the CSU decide to nominate a replacement for Seehofer, Merkel’s coalition would continue to remain in power, although the chancellor would have to contend with even further strained ties between the conservative allies.

If the CSU no longer wants to stay in the coalition, there are several scenarios that could take place, none of which look particularly promising for Merkel:

Minority government

Merkel’s CDU — and the SPD, if they agree to it — could attempt to continue ruling without a majority in parliament, but they would need to continually seek partners in the opposition in order to pass legislation as a majority is required. During the lengthy talks to form the current coalition, Merkel said she’d rather call for a new election than opt for a minority government, meaning she won’t likely be keen on taking this route.

Forming a new coalition

The CDU and the SPD could also start searching for a new coalition partner to fill the gap left by the CSU. They could possibly strike a deal with either the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) or the environmentalist Greens. However, Merkel’s seat as chancellor would likely be up for grabs during negotiations.

Voting out Merkel

The technically legal but unlikely third option could see Merkel facing a vote of no confidence in the Bundestag. Should the CSU abandon the CDU, there would technically be a majority in parliament against the chancellor. However, the other parties would need to also simultaneously propose a new candidate — an unlikely option considering the divides between them.

New elections

Should Merkel’s government break down, it could pave the way for the dissolution of parliament and new elections in Germany. The process to call for new elections is complicated, but it’s an option that Merkel previously said she prefers to ruling in a minority government. Should President Steinmeier decide to dissolve parliament, a new election would have to take place within 60 days.

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Germany: Merkel’s interior minister offers to resign

July 2, 2018
Horst Seehofer issues German chancellor with ultimatum on immigration 

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Horst Seehofer has offered to resign as Angela Merkel’s interior minister and as leader of the CSU © EPA

Guy Chazan in Berlin 


Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister, has set Angela Merkel an ultimatum, saying he would resign unless the chancellor acceded to his demands for tougher controls on the German border.

It was the latest development in a conflict that threatens to shatter the alliance between Mr Seehofer’s Bavarian CSU party and Ms Merkel’s CDU, a union that has formed the bedrock of German politics for nearly 70 years.

That could lead to the collapse of Ms Merkel’s coalition government just three months after it came into office and throw the future of the EU’s longest-serving leader into doubt.

It was a day of high drama in Munich, where the CSU party executive came together to discuss the dispute over asylum policy. During a marathon meeting, Mr Seehofer, who is both interior minister and CSU leader, said he had decided to resign from both posts. However, CSU colleagues persuaded him to stay on and try one last time to resolve the party’s differences with Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

The CSU will now seek talks with the CDU on Monday, “in the hope that we can reach an agreement”, Mr Seehofer said in the early hours of Monday. After that, he said, he would make his final decision.

Mr Seehofer’s resignation would mark the dramatic denouement of a power struggle that has destabilised German politics for three years and left deep scars in the once close relationship between Ms Merkel’s centre-right CDU and its Bavarian allies.

He and Ms Merkel fell out badly over Ms Merkel’s decision to leave Germany’s borders open at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015. Though they patched up their differences last year, they continue to hold wildly divergent views on an issue that has left a faultline through the heart of German politics.

The current row was ignited by Mr Seehofer’s demand that German border police be given the power to turn away asylum seekers if they were already registered in other EU countries — an idea Ms Merkel rejected out of hand. She claimed it would undermine European unity and jeopardise the Schengen passport-free travel zone.

In the end, Mr Seehofer gave Ms Merkel two weeks to come up with a pan-European solution to the issue. At last week’s EU summit in Brussels she helped negotiate a package of measures on migration and asylum that addressed some of Mr Seehofer’s concerns, particularly over “secondary migration” — the movement of refugees across internal EU borders.

But on Sunday Mr Seehofer rejected the Brussels deal, saying it was “inadequate” and “not as effective” as his own policy proposal. He said a meeting he had held with Ms Merkel on Saturday evening to try to resolve their row was “futile and pointless”.

“Seehofer and the CSU manoeuvred themselves into a blind alley,” said Frank Decker, a political scientist at Bonn university.

According to German media, Mr Seehofer had told participants of Sunday’s CSU meeting that there were three options: that the party bow to Ms Merkel’s asylum policy; that he order tougher controls on the border, knowing that it could blow up the CDU/CSU alliance; or that he resign as party chief and minister. He said he had chosen the third option.

That course of action would have spared Germany a grave government crisis. He had threatened to introduce his tough new border controls immediately after the EU summit, if he considered its results insufficient. Ms Merkel would then have had little choice but to sack him, a move that would have triggered the break-up of the CDU/CSU bloc and potentially the collapse of the chancellor’s “grand coalition” government.

It is unclear what will happen if Mr Seehofer does indeed resign. The other CSU ministers in Ms Merkel’s cabinet would probably have quit in protest if the interior minister was fired. But they might stay on now if he resigns.

Earlier on Sunday, Ms Merkel had praised the deal negotiated in Brussels, saying it represented substantial progress on the migration issue.

But others in the meeting raised objections. “That is a decision that I cannot accept,” said Alexander Dobrindt, head of the CSU parliamentary group.

“Of course, we did not solve the problem, but I never promised anyone that we would,” Ms Merkel said in an interview on the ZDF, the television broadcaster. “But honestly, two weeks ago I wasn’t sure I would achieve what we just achieved.”

EU leaders agreed in the early hours of Friday to a broad package of measures to stem illegal migration. They said they would set up “controlled centres” where migrants who turn up on EU territory would be taken for processing of their asylum claims, and called for “regional disembarkation platforms”, possibly in Africa, where migrants rescued in the Mediterranean could be sent.

Ms Merkel also concluded bilateral deals with Spain and Greece that would allow Germany to send refugees back to those countries if they had previously been registered there. Berlin says 14 other EU states have promised deals with Germany that would allow for refugees to be returned more quickly.

https://www.ft.com/content/f02bcf36-7d3a-11e8-bc55-50daf11b720d

Malta will take in Lifeline migrant rescue ship, says Italy

June 26, 2018

Malta will let the rescue ship Lifeline dock after Italy refused it entry, ending the vessel’s near week-long wait in the Mediterranean with more than 230 migrants on board, Italy’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

The offer resolved a standoff with Rome, where a new populist government, co-led by the anti-immigrant League party, has shaken European migration policy by announcing it will no longer let in ships operated by charities that rescue migrants.

Image result for Lifeline, ship, photos

The dangerous sea route to Italy has been the main route into Europe for asylum seekers from Africa, many thousands of whom have died at sea over the past few years. Lifeline said overnight one person had to be evacuated for medical reasons and that general conditions onboard were worsening.

Mission Lifeline, the aid group that runs the ship, welcomed Malta’s offer but said on Twitter “we now need EU countries to welcome the people.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat told him about his decision in a phone call.

The Lifeline has already spent five days stuck in international waters. After reaching Malta, the migrants will be divided up among European Union members who are willing to take them in, Conte said. He did not say when it would arrive.

“Italy will do its part and welcome a portion of the migrants who are on board Lifeline in the hope that other European countries do the same,” he said.

Conte said the ship would then be impounded and its captain investigated over reports that he ignored instructions to let the Libyan coastguard pick up the migrants.

Malta has yet to confirm, but issued a statement earlier saying it had been participating in discussions with Brussels to find a diplomatic solution that involved “the sharing of responsibility by a number of member states”.

Aquarius

Immigration has become an urgent political issue across Europe in recent weeks, since the new government took power in Italy and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition split over the issue.

Europe took in more than a million migrants, mainly asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa, in 2015. Since then, the numbers have fallen sharply.

One main route, from Turkey to Greece, was largely shut in 2016, and numbers have fallen to tens of thousands so far this year, a 77 percent decline on 2017, when almost 120,000 came to Italy.

But the issue still sharply divides European governments and has led to a surge in anti-immigrant and far right political movements across the continent.

Countries that have taken in large numbers of asylum seekers want other EU countries to share the burden. Eastern European states, which have taken in among the smallest numbers so far, refuse to accept more and have turned the issue into a central focus for nationalist governments.

Leaders of the European Union failed on Sunday to come up with a joint position to tackle migration and will try again at a summit at the end of this week.

Also on Tuesday, Malta denied charity ship Aquarius access to its port for re-supply and a crew change, without providing any explanation for the decision, humanitarian group Doctors without Borders (MSF) said on Twitter.

A private Danish cargo ship, the Alexander Maersk, carrying more than 100 rescued migrants and not covered by Italy’s ban on charity ships, was permitted to dock on Tuesday in the port of Pozzallo on the Italian island of Sicily.

(REUTERS)

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