Bravo to ministers on migrants - Renzi (2)

PD leader hails 3.5% drop in arrivals on Facebook

(ANSA) - Rome, August 9 - Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi said Wednesday that government ministers had done well to avoid public spats, amid reports of tension within the executive over the Italian-drafted code of conduct for NGOs involved in migrant rescues at sea. "No controversy can overshadow the results of the last few weeks, starting with the significant reduction in the number of arrivals (down 3.5% on 2016)," ex-premier Renzi said via Facebook. "And our ministers, who are good and capable, are doing a good job. "I realize that it's August but we won't resort to rowing of those who want to turn everything into an external election campaign.
    President Sergio Mattarella on Monday took the unusual step of issuing a statement backing a member of the government, Interior Minister Marco Minniti, after he skipped a cabinet meeting, fuelling speculation that he was think of quitting over differences about application of the code. The premier's office also came out of support of Minniti.
    Among other things, NGOs who sign the code pledge not to enter Libyan territorial waters to conduct rescues. NGOs that do not sign up to it are not guaranteed use of Italian ports. It is part of a strategy aiming to stopping the massive wave of migrants coming to Italy from North Africa. But other members of the government reportedly have doubts about the code. The tension escalated after a ship run by Doctors Without Frontier (MSF), one of the NGOs that did not sign the code, transferred a group a rescued migrants to the Italian Coast Guard at sea at the weekend, without having to enter a port. The coast guard answers to the ministry under Transport Minister Graziano Delrio.
    Many Italian newspapers have reported that Renzi, who is set to try to win back his old job as premier in elections next year, had sided with Delrio.
    Minniti said Tuesday that there was no tension with the transport minister.