ROME – Italy’s new government barred a migrant rescue ship from docking at its ports on Friday, in its third such refusal this month, hours after a tense meeting of European leaders over migration ended.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in a statement he had received a formal request from the interior ministry, headed by far-right leader Matteo Salvini, to deny Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms entry on the grounds that it was a danger to public order.
In less than a month since taking office, Salvini has spearheaded a new government policy to shut ports to charity ships that pick up migrants from overcrowded smugglers’ boats.
The Aquarius, carrying 630 migrants, and Lifeline, carrying some 230 people, ended up in Spain and Malta respectively when Italy closed its ports to them earlier this month. The Open Arms vessel has no migrants on board.
An Open Arms spokesman had no immediate comment.
European Union leaders on Friday came to a hard-fought agreement over migration that Salvini and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said was positive for Italy. However, the agreement does not oblige other EU states to share the burden of sea rescues.
More than 650,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy since 2014, mostly after being rescued at sea off the Libyan coast by private and public groups. Italy is sheltering about 170,000, but the number of arrivals has plummeted this year.
From Libya, the main departure point, they have fallen more than 80 percent. Deaths at sea are estimated by the United Nations at nearly 1,000 so far this year.