Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Italy seeks to relocate 450 refugees waiting off its shores to other countries of the European Union as Rome struggles to stick with its policy of banning humanitarian rescue ships from docking at its ports.
Reports on Saturday suggested that Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was trying to find countries that could accommodate the refugees, who were picked by two ships near the Italian island of Linosa.
Conte had a phone conversation with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a far-right figure who has been leading efforts to close borders to refugees fleeing war and poverty in North Africa.
Italy accepted the 450 refugees after Malta refused to rescue them on Friday. The refugees had been saved by a ship operated by EU border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy’s tax police in an area 100 nautical miles from Malta.
An unnamed source said Conte and Salvini had agreed that there would be three options on the 450 refugees. Italian authorities, the source said, had transferred eight women and children in need of medical assistance to hospital on the island of Lampedusa.
The source said the refugees “could be distributed immediately among European countries, or Italy would contact Libya to send them back to where they came from.” A third option would be to keep the refugees onboard until their asylum applications are considered, the source added.
Since taking office on June 1, the Italian government has been pushing the EU countries to redefine migration rules and accept their share of a historic refugee flow that has hit the southern and eastern European shores over the past few years.
Italians managed to force EU leaders to reinstate migrant principles in a summit in June. The source said Conte would write to senior EU officials to implement those principles under the current circumstances. The source said Italy was no longer willing to take on, alone, “a problem that affects all European countries.”
Under the new government, Italy has refused to take in ships although countries like Malta and Spain insist that Rome has a responsibility to do so. The United Nations and the EU have also acknowledged that Libya, the main embarkation point for refugees travelling toward Italy, is not safe, making it harder for Italian authorities to send them back as it would violate international law.