Harsh words for Italian Government after it closes its ports to immigrants
Around 500 of the 629 immigrants who are on board the ship Aquarius will be transferred on to two Italian military warships which will shortly sail towards the port of Valencia in Spain in a journey expected to take four days.
The day after Spain offered to take the immigrants which were rescued just off Libya, the French PM accused Italy of ignoring its international obligations.
The 629 immigrants, including 11 children, are still out at sea in international waters between Sicily and Malta and are expected to start the 1,300 kms voyage towards Valencia.
The conditions on board the ship are extremely crowded and in fact the French humanitarian ship is carrying 130 people more than its actual capacity. It is for this reason, and the fact that sea conditions are bad, that it was decided to transfer the majority of the immigrants on to the Italian warships.
The ship’s crew said that it was going to be too dangerous for the immigrants to remain on board the Aquarius for the four day journey.
Over the last few hours the ship received food, water and medical supplies from Maltese and Italian authorities.
The decision by the Italian Government to breach its international obligations by refusing the ship entry into Italian ports, led to several adverse reactions, including that by French President, Emmanuel Macron, who condemned Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility.
A spokesperson for the French Government Benjamin Griveaux said, “this is very cynical and irresponsible of the Italian Government in the face of a dramatic humanitarian situation.”
These same words were also echoed in Parliament by the French PM, Edouard Philippe.
“In this situation, it is Italy which has to assume its responsibilities. They are ignoring this fact and are ignoring their international obligations,” said PM Philippe.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister, Dolores Delgado said that Spain will be taking the immigrants because it believes in humans rights. She argued that there could be international fines for Italy shirking its responsibilities to protect human rights.
In his reaction, Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter that he wants to work with everyone in a peaceful way, but with the principal that Italians come first.
In comments to Reuters, the Italians who were interviewed expressed their disappointment at the new Italian Government’s decision to close its ports to immigrants.
The European Parliament will today be discussing this development and there are even calls for Parliament to take the European Council to the European Courts of Justice if the meeting later this month doe not manage to reach agreement on the changes to the Dublin rules, which state that the countries where immigrants disembark are obliged to take responsibility for them.
Meanwhile while the world’s attention is centered on the ship Aquarius, the humanitarian organization ‘Sea Watch’ has reported that 12 dead bodies have been found around 20 miles off the Libyan coast, while another 40 immigrants have been rescued. Earlier, 53 immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan disembarked at Noto bay in Sicily. .