Italy rescues migrants, asks other countries to host them

Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

A ship operated by European Union border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy's tax police picked up the migrants near the Italian island of Linosa and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta, which rejected pressure from Rome on Friday to rescue them.

But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, and on Saturday, insisted it had respected "all of its obligations under worldwide conventions" concerning those rescued at sea.

Malta says the ship's crew made clear they didn't need help and were heading toward the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Salvini and his transport minister insisted Malta should have opened its ports to the ship.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has forced migration to the top of Europe's agenda by refusing to let rescue boats dock at Italian ports, vowed to remain firm Saturday as he created yet another standoff with hundreds of migrants stranded at sea.

"Of the 450 migrants on two ships off the Italian coast, France and Malta have agreed to take 50 each, and other countries will do the same".

The Maltese interior ministry also said that the migrants aboard the vessel meant to proceed to Italy.

Italy refuses to let refugees get off docked ship

On Saturday morning, as the two Frontex vessels approached the wooden boat, several migrants threw themselves overboard, prompting immediate efforts to rescue them from the water, Italian sources said.

The source said Mr Conte would write to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker and European Council President Donald Tusk, as well as other European head of state, urging them to apply migrant arrangements that were agreed at an EU summit at the end of last month. "If it is shown that some of the migrants were violent, they will go to prison".

Aid officials say migrants who are being returned to Libya are at risk of facing abuse, rape, beatings and slavery.

After receiving President Mattarella's phone call, Conte ordered the migrants be allowed off the ship and they finally disembarked on Thursday evening.

Salvini had said a Sudanese and a Ghanaian among the migrants allegedly tried to hijack the tug so it would not return them to Libya. The threats prompted the Italian coast guard to board the migrants and bring them to Trapani.

Salvini's refusal to allow the ship to dock in Italy comes after the decision Thursday to allow 67 people to disembark an Italian coastguard ship that had docked at the Sicilian port of Trapani after a row that caused friction within the country's anti-establishment coalition government.

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