New row brewing between Italy and Malta over migrant arrivals

Италия оставила дрейфовать в море судно с 450 мигрантами

Eight people, all women and children, were transported to the island of Lampedusa aboard Coast Guard patrol boats for health reasons.

France and Malta have agreed to take 50 migrants each out of 450 stranded at sea on two EU border agency vessels, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Saturday after pressing his European peers to keep their promise to share the burden.

After a long tug-of-war with Malta, which had taken over the coordination of the rescue without sending ships and denying availability to receive migrants on the island, the Italian government brought in the Guardia di Finanza and Coast Guard vessels to escort the fishing boat.

Salvini, who took office when Italy's new populist government came to power on June 1, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned charity rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

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Late on Friday, Malta said the people travelling on the packed vessel were Italy's responsibility.

The migrants had been held at port as a row brewed over reports that a handful of the group revolted after they were rescued, amid fears that they would be returned to Libya, but were eventually authorised to leave the ship by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte despite the Salvini's insistence that they only be allowed off the vessel "in handcuffs".

Salvini and his transport minister insisted Malta should have opened its ports to the ship.

On Saturday morning, as the two Frontex vessels approached the boat, several migrants threw themselves overboard, prompting immediate efforts to rescue them from the water, Italian sources said.

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Salvini said he had learned of the president's move with "regret and amazement".

However they were kept aboard while Salvini vowed that "delinquents" among the migrants would be jailed, then expelled, leaving it unclear for hours if the other passengers would be allowed off to seek asylum.

But UN officials and human rights advocates say migrants are at risk of torture, beatings, rape and other atrocities in Libyan detention centres. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Thursday he won't let the migrants off until there is clarity over what happened after an Italian commercial tugboat rescued them over the weekend.

Earlier this week, the Interior Minister joined his hardline German and Austrian counterparts in sending a stern warning over the implementation of their radical proposals to tackle illegal immigration at the European Union external borders.

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