Italy will pull out of the European Union’s search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean unless other EU countries agree to allow rescued migrants to land at their ports rather than just Italian ones.
Sophia currently lands all rescued migrants in Italian ports but Italy’s coalition government has demanded more support from other EU countries after bearing the brunt of the 2015 migration crisis. After a day of talks no agreement was reached on changing the port of landing rules in Operation Sophia.
“I feel disappointed because I’ve seen that Europe is not here”, Elisabetta Trenta, Italy’s defence minister said after the meeting.
The Italian government has taken to refusing charity boats permission to dock at Italian ports. Despite migrant arrivals being far lower than in previous years, migration has become a hugely divisive issue in the EU.
Southern European countries complain they have been left alone to bear the brunt of the crisis, while richer northern countries claim that EU rules that insist that migrants claim asylum in the first EU country they land in are being ignored. At the same time, Eastern European countries have refused to accept mandatory migrant resettlement quotas which would redistribute migrants from Italy and Greece across the bloc.
Mr Salvini on Thursday lashed out at French president Emmanuel Macron, who had criticised him for turning away migrant boats. “Macron should have the good taste to keep quiet and not give lectures to the Italians,” he said after accusing France of pushing back more than 40,000 migrants to Italy last year. The firebrand leader of the junior partner in Italy’s governing coalition claimed responsibility for “blackmailing” the EU over the Diciotti coast guard ship carrying 177 Eritrean migrants.
“I learn there is a new crime, blackmailing the European Union, I didn’t know it existed,” Salvini told a press conference on the probe into the Diciotti coast guard ship carrying 177 Eritrean migrants, “Good, I claim responsibility for blackmailing the European Union“.