German interior minister Horst Seehofer has requested Italy re-open ports to migrant transport vessels as NGOs ramp up operations off the coast of Libya.
The German minister had asked Italian populist interior minister Matteo Salvini what the point of closing ports was when many migrants have eventually ended up in Italy, Il Giornale reports.
“I want to avoid the same pattern being repeated every time, with a ship with migrants waiting for eight or 14 days in front of Italy’s coasts and Salvini who does not want them to go ashore. But it always ends up docking anyway, either because migrants collapse, get sick, or there are pregnant women,” Seehofer said.
Seehofer’s words come as the Italian coastguard vessel, the Gregoretti, spent five days with migrants on board before a deal was reached Wednesday afternoon to have the migrants distributed to six different countries including Germany and France.
Merkel Demands Sea Watch Captain’s Release, Asylum Seeker Calls for EU-Wide Migrant Distribution https://t.co/YTFmdRKwVn
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 2, 2019
Matteo Salvini responded to his German counterpart’s comments, saying: “We are not opening anything, the ports remain closed.”
“We are not the refugee camp in Europe,” Mr Salvini added.
The response echoes similar comments made by Salvini last week in response to French President Emmanuel Macron who slammed the Italian minister for not attending a conference on migration in Paris.
“Italy will not be your refugee camp… There is the port of Marseille, don’t come and put pressure on us. If you expect us to sign a document where ships arrive in Italy, you are wrong. Italians are no longer going to be anyone’s slaves,” Salvini said.
Despite ongoing court cases against several NGOs and their captains, such as German NGO Sea Watch’s Carola Rackette and Pia Klemp, NGO activity has increased off the Libyan coast.
Salvini to France: Italy Will No Longer Accept All Migrants Arriving in Europe https://t.co/F1CdQl5Yq3
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 23, 2019
Another German NGO, Sea-Eye, announced it had picked up 40 migrants this week. The spokesman for Sea-Eye Gordon Isler said that the closest safe port was the Italian port of Lampedusa but noted: “We will see how things will go in the next few hours.”
Salvini responded to the NGO stating: “If the NGO really cares about the health of immigrants, it can set a course for Tunisia: if instead, they think of coming to Italy as if nothing had happened, they have the wrong minister.”