Left-wing mayors in Italian coastal cities courted outrage Sunday as they defied the democratic will of the Italian people to throw open their ports to a migrant delivery ship carrying 629 illegals, despite the newly elected national government having ordered it be turned away.
Mayors in Naples, Messina, Reggio Calabria, and Palermo stood against the poll-topping, recently installed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Sunday after he said the migrant ship Aquarius would be turned away from Italy, reports Italy’s Il Giornale.
UPDATE 1500: Spain opens ports to migrant import ship
A strategic victory appears to be emerging for Italy’s Salvini Monday afternoon after ports outside of Italy offered a berth for the contested Aquarius ship, apparently rewarding the new interior minister for standing his ground over the highly emotive, politically charged issue of migrant movement across the Mediterranean. La Vanguardia reports both Valencia and Barcelona have offered to take the ship in after comments by Spain’s new leftist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
The original story continues below:
Tweeting on Sunday, Salvini said: “Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration. My goal is to guarantee a peaceful life for these children in Africa and for our children in Italy.”
In a stark sign that the city mayors were running against public opinion, the drama over the migrant ship came as the votes were counted for Sunday’s Italian local elections in which left-wing, open borders parties show signs of faltering while the populist, anti-mass migration League party stands to make the biggest gains.
Italy’s Populist League Dominates Municipal Elections Sunday https://t.co/fIj7H8R2rN
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 11, 2018
Drama over Salvini’s closed ports policy intensified Monday morning as a second migrant ship bound for Italy and presently in Libyan waters, having collected its human cargo, was also blocked by the government.
Tweeting out the hashtag #CloseMyPorts, Salvini identified the Sea Watch 3, a Dutch-flagged vessel working for a German open-borders group, telling his followers: “Italy has stopped bending its head and obeying, this is the time where we say no.”
The Mayor of Palermo, one of those cities keen to defy Italy’s new populist, anti-establishment left-right coalition government, caught headlines with his remarks when he said of his decision to open the port: “Palermo in ancient Greek meant ‘complete port’. We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea. We will not stop now.”
“Salvini is violating the international law. He has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-right government” he said, reports The Guardian.
NGO ‘Rescue’ Ship Carrying Over 600 Migrants BLOCKED by Italy’s New Govt https://t.co/K1XNNGMro9
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 11, 2018
Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to international law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on international maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.
Talking to the paper, the legal expert said: “The decision to close the ports is more than legitimate. The navigation code provides that for reasons of public order, navigation or access to a port to a foreign ship may be prohibited.
“In the present case, it is a question of ships which have infringed the code of conduct and which are prejudicial to the security of the coastal state. Not to mention the concepts of territoriality and sovereignty which, although considered out of fashion, further justify such a decision.”
The Sea Watch 3 and Aquarius both remain at sea. In practical terms, no ships of this type will be able to land without cooperation of the Italian coastguard, which is under the direct command of the Italian government.
The Aquarius, operated by SOS Méditerranée, has been one of the key players in the ongoing drama in the central Mediterranean, ferrying thousands of migrants from Libyan waters to southern Europe. The ship was the target of an action by the anti-mass migration Identitarian group in 2017 who used a rubber dinghy to prevent the ship from leaving port on its way to pick up migrants.
The activists claimed the crew of the ship were totally unflinching in cooperating with”criminal traffickers” to bring “hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants” to Europe, as the chief prosecutor in Sicily said of the charity group “We have evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs and people traffickers in Libya.”
The group was forced to deny it was in cahoots with smugglers in April 2017, calling a press conference with their deputy director following an increase in scrutiny in their work.
The rescue of 2 rubber boats turned critical when one boat broke apart in the darkness, leaving over 40 people in the water. After rescuing 229 people from these boats, the #Aquarius then took 400 more people, rescued earlier by Italian navy, Italian coastguard & merchant vessels pic.twitter.com/b289C3aOly
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 10, 2018