Italy threatens to close ports and impound Rescue agencies’ ships

Thousands of years ago years ago when the Romans brought civilisation to North Africa, Libya was a Roman colony. Two thousand years later migrants from North- and sub-Saharan Africa are bringing chaos with them on a return trip across the Mediterranean. As Europe continues to struggle under the weight of this ongoing unchecked mass migration Italy and Austria are taking action to protect their borders.

The Brenner Pass is now seen as a potential migration hotspot, as the influx to Italy so far this year is higher than last year. Nearly 85,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy in the first half of this year, across the Mediterranean. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says that is about 20% more than in the first half of 2016.

So far 101,000 migrants have entered Europe in 2017 via the Mediterranean and… 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea.

The Italians, who essentially provide free ferry and naval escort service for any Libyan who steps a toe into the waters off Tripoli or Tobruk, are finally threatening to close their ports and impound the so-called “rescue” agencies’ ships…

Italy has made the threat because it sees the current scale of migrant arrivals as unsustainable.

Armoured vehicles like this could soon impose border controls at the Brenner Pass

Italy is not the only country to take action to try to stop the migrant influx. Austria has sent 750 troops and four Pandur armoured personnel carriers to the Tyrol region. They are on standby ready to deploy to the Brenner Pass if the influx into Italy across the Mediterranean does not diminish. The “open borders” system that is the reason for all the migrant chaos is called the Schengen agreement.

The European Commission has announced an action plan to help Italy cope with the Central Mediterranean influx. It calls on Italy to establish a code of conduct for aid agencies’ rescue ships.

The plan calls on EU ministers to approve:

  • €46m (£40m; $52m) to help Libya beef up border controls and tackle the smuggling gangs
  • €35m more for Italy to step up processing of migrants and returns of failed asylum seekers
  • Step up work with African countries, including Mali and Niger, to stem the flow of migrants.

Amnesty International dismissed the plan. “Outsourcing more and more responsibility for search and rescue to the Libyan Coastguard is irresponsible and ineffective and has led to more deaths at sea,” it said.

“In allowing the Libyan coastguard to intercept boats and return them to Libya, the EU is showing blatant disregard for the lives of refugees and migrants.”

The EU’s Schengen system – free movement across most European borders – was overwhelmed by an influx of migrants and refugees in 2015.

…Since then, tighter border controls in the Balkans have reduced the numbers heading north from Greece.

Most of the influx to Austria was via Hungary.


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