Italian populist interior minister Matteo Salvini is refusing to allow migrant ferry operator Sea-Watch from landing in Italy, accusing them directly of human trafficking.
The Sea Watch-3 vessel continues to remain off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa and despite repeatedly asking to be able to land in Italy with 43 migrants on board, Salvini has continued to refuse entry, Il Giornale reports.
Salvini directly replied to the German-based NGO on Italian radio, saying, “Sea Watch does trafficking in human beings and doesn’t care about the rules,” adding that he would never permit the ship to land in Italy with migrants no matter the day.
Giorgia Linardi, a spokeswoman for the NGO, reacted to the populist party leader’s comments by complaining that Salvini’s recently passed migration and security decree prevents the “sacrosanct right” for their captain to dock at the port.
Migrant Rescue Vessel Captain Faces 20 Years For Aiding Illegal Immigration https://t.co/NVD8YPO9BE
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 11, 2019
“A rescue in itself is an exceptional event,” she claimed, and added that it “would normally give all the rights to the master of the ship to enter the port, indeed it would be a duty of the authorities to assist him. This element demonstrates the injustice of the Salvini decree.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have both called on European nations to take in the 43 migrants, arguing that they should not be returned to Libya.
“Someone open the ports to these people, they need immediate treatment, they must be able to file an asylum application,” UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami demanded.
Why safe ports in nearby African countries such as Tunisia are unsuitable was not made clear.
The accusations of human trafficking from Salvini come as Sea-Watch captain Pia Klemp faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years after being accused of aiding illegal migration.
Migrant Sea Deaths Plunge Thanks to Italy's Salvini Closing Ports https://t.co/mJHEMXZHxx
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 25, 2019