By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe
ROME, Italy – The Italian government has threatened to close its ports to prevent an influx of migrants from entering the country.
The suggestion to close ports was suggested by Italy’s EU ambassador, Maurizio Massari, to EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos during a meeting.
About 73,000 migrants have entered Italy this year. The migrants are mostly from North African countries.
For those who are not aided by a nonprofit group, the route is treacherous. Smugglers from Libya stow away migrants on small fishing boats. Nonprofit aid groups like Doctors Without Borders, as well as the EU’s official rescue operation Frontex, rescue stranded migrants, dropping them off on Italy’s shores.
The Italian Coast Guard also joins in rescue efforts.
Nearly 2,000 have died on the journey or gone missing. In one instance, Italian authorities arrested a man for allegedly torturing migrants in Libya as they waited for passage on a smuggler’s boat.
The consideration of closing ports comes after the arrival on Italian shores of 11,000 migrants over the course of five days.
The government has suggested refusing docking privileges to boats that are not carrying Italy’s flag.
Other countries have closed their borders to migrants to prevent them from moving north, out of Italy. Poland and Hungary have avoided taking on refugees to lessen Italy’s burden. And on June 26, police at the French-Italy border sprayed tear gas at the 400 migrants attempting to travel north.
Critics have described this threat as a “panic measure.” Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that he would be “surprised if [this move] is legal.”
EU leaders agree that Italy and Greece need to receive more aid in managing incoming refugees and migrants.
The move to close ports would not impact the European Union’s Frontex program. The program is governed by international law and cannot be altered. The commissioner’s office will be in charge of leading discussions for the policy change. These discussions will likely include the nongovernmental humanitarian aid groups.
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