Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini softened his previous hardline stance at the weekend when he said that some of the 450 migrants stranded on two ships in the Mediterranean would be allowed to disembark in Sicily.
Speaking on TV channel RaiNews24, the minister, who also leads the junior coalition partner in the current Italian government, said that Italy would take some migrants after Germany, France and Malta had pledged to take in a total of 150 migrants from the two ships, while Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday that Spain and Portugal had also promised to accept 50 asylum seekers each.
Salvini wants migrant boats to be returned to Libya, but international law states that refugees cannot be returned to a place where their lives are in danger. Both the UN and EU have ruled that Libya is not safe.
Salvini did not say when the rest of the migrants would be allowed to disembark and when Berlin, Paris, Valletta, Madrid and Lisbon would take the migrants they had promised to receive.
On Saturday July 14th Conte sent letters to the heads of state and heads of government of the 27 other EU members asking them to share responsibility for the migrants.
Malta had previously rebuffed pressure from Italy, stating that the migrants were Italy’s responsibility, but said on Saturday that it was ready to host 50 asylum seekers.
But Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said that the country would not accept any of the 450 asylum seekers. He reiterated the Czech position that boats with migrants aboard should be stopped and turned back and that migrants should be helped in their countries rather than be allowed into the EU.