Italy Confirms Collaboration With Libya’s Tripoli While Threatening to Shut Its Ports To Migrants And Urging Malta To Receive Them

(Picture: Italian personnel ready to receive migrants in a port, filed pic. Source: Il Fatto Quotidiano)

by Alessandro Pagano Dritto (Twitter: @paganodritto)

Summary: While the new Conte government confirms its collaboration with Tripoli, the migratory issue has apparently come to a new level with Italy threatening to shut its ports to a NGO and calling on Malta to receive 629 rescued migrants. Meanwhile, some Italian political and military personalities are voicing for a naval blockade off the Libyan coasts as the only possible solution.

[June 10th, 2018 – Italy] Italy’s Ambassador Giuseppe Perrone has confirmed the recently appointed Conte government will keep on collaborating with Tripoli, a statement from Libya’s Government of National Agreement (GNA) reported on June 10th, adding that Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini will visit the Libyan Capital within the end of the month.

The ports and the letter to Malta: Italy’s latest move over migration.

The announcement comes at a time when the migratory issue in the Mediterranean, largely depending on the migrants leaving from Tripolitania’s shores, has apparently reached a new step: indeed, in the same June 10th, Italy has threatened to shut down its ports to a NGO carrying out 629 migrants it said were previously rescued by the “Italian Navy, Italian Coast Guard and merchant vessels”.

Initially reported by the Italian press, the news about the ports has been apparently confirmed, later, by the same Interior Minister Salvini on Twitter, with the hashtag “#chiudiamoiporti“, that means “let’s shut down the ports”.

It’s not clear how effective this threat will be as some mayors from coastal towns – such as Napleshave already reportedly stated their ports will be ready to get the migrants.

The involved NGO tweeted about “reports of the Italian Minister of Interior stating Italian ports will be closed to the Aquarius if Malta refuses to disembark the rescued people”.

Indeed, Malta received a letter from Italy with the request of receiving the migrants:

According to Corriere della Sera‘s journalist Fiorenza Sarzanini,

“the letter urging La Valletta’s [Malta’s] authorities to let Aquarius to dock has been sent by the coordination centre in Rome – directing the rescue operation in the night time – to the Maltese Coast Guard. A procedure always carried out in such cases”.

“The rescue by NGO boat Aquarius was conducted in the Libyan Search and Rescue region and coordinated by Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Rome. RCC Malta in this case is neither the competent, nor the coordinating authority”,

Malta replied with an official statement.

Migration has recently been the reason of another diplomatic incident between Italy and Tunisia, as Interior Minister Salvini stated, in one of his first statements as a Minister, that Tunisia was sending “convicts” to Italy. Given the importance Minister Salvini gives to the migration through the Mediterranean, it came with little surprise when himself stressed Libya would have been his first Country to visit officially.

Salvini himself and Minister of Defence Elisabetta Trenta respectively urged Russia and NATO to help Italy in the Mediterranean area, even though, as of now it seems both the requests are undetailed and just in general terms.

Italian political and military personalities keep on voicing for a naval blockade.

Early this week, the rightwing opposition party Fratelli d’Italia abstained from giving its confidence to the Conte government, Salvini is part of, blaming it for not considering any naval blockade off the Libyan coasts: a sign that illegal migration through the Mediterranean is a common base between the government and at least a part of the opposition, with the latter willing to suggest its own terms to solve it.

Last June 8th, he Italian news website Primato Nazionale, close to a neofascist group failing to get access to the Parliament in the latest elections, shared an interview to the Italian General Vincenzo Santo, former Chief of Staff of the NATO mission to Afghanistan, who again proposed the naval blockade as the only possible and working solution to the migration from Libya:

“Naval blockade off the Libyan Coasts and raids by our special forces” in order to destroy the traffickers’ boats and dismantle the gathering areas for migrants in the Libyan land; this is the only solution to stop the illegal migrants’ invasion into Italy. “The rest is all talk”,

the newspaper quoted the General as saying, partially quoting and partially summarizing his words.

Over migration, Serraj is blamed for weakness.

Fratelli d’Italia‘s Guido Crosetto, already Italy’s Defence undersecretary in 2011, today tweeted that

“Increasing departures from Libya as well as the following arrivals to Italy show us how much we depend from the Libyan government and particularly from the Libyan Coast Guard. Ramadan and a skermish over a provision of gas oil are enough to open the locks”,

he stated, while also General Vincenzo Santo blamed Serraj for his weakness in his interview: “the Libyan leader Serraj, the international community recognizes and Italy funds, has no political or military grip”.

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