Italy’s interior minister on Sunday threatened to send “back to Libya” nearly 180 people stranded for three days on an Italian coastguard ship if the EU did not step in to resolve another migrant row with Malta.
The 177 people have been sat off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa since Thursday after being saved by the coastguard’s Diciotti vessel, and Italy is battling with Malta over who should take them in.
“Either Europe decides to seriously offer Italy some concrete help, beginning with for example the 180 immigrants on board the Diciotti ship, or we will be forced to do what will definitively end the human traffickers’ business. That means taking the people saved in the sea back to Libya,” Salvini said in a statement.
Numerous human rights abuses have been reported in detention centres that hold migrants hoping to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean and arrive in Europe.
The Diciotti has been stood off Lampedusa while Italy’s populist government, in power since June, demanded that Malta take in the passengers.
Earlier on Sunday the Maltese government, which on Wednesday allowed 141 migrants aboard the Aquarius vessel to dock after an agreement to distribute them to a number of European countries, underlined its refusal of Italy’s demands.