EU migrant mission rethink needed

Govt to speak with single voice

(ANSA) - Rome, July 9 - EU migrant rescue missions need to be rethought, particularly on automatically taking those saved to Italy, sources said after a government summit ahead of the Innsbruck summit on Wednesday with Germany and Austria. Other points agreed were: a No to secondary movements; an insistence on strengthening external borders; a serious EU relocation policy for asylum seekers; and support for Libya.
    Italy will go to the summit with a common line and Rome will return to being a protagonist in Europe, the sources stressed.
    Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini will have another summit meeting on migrants Wednesday with Premier Giuseppe Conte, sources said Monday after a summit ahead of Wednesday's summit in Innsbruck.
    Monday's government summit also featured Labour and Industry Minister and Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio and Economy Minister Giovanni Tria.
    Di Maio and Salvini are the leaders of the two government partners, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the anti-migrant, Euroskeptic League.
    Foreign Minister Enrico Moavero Milanesi said on the prospect of revising the EU's migrant rescue mission Sophia that "we won't duck our international commitments, we are fully involved (in Sophia) and we don't intend to move outside the framework of international law, and therefore European law".
    Moavero Milanesi said at a press conference with UN special envoy for Libya Ghassan Salamé that "our government has decided to give more boats to Libya to save people. The idea is not only to block but also to save people and to take them to a safe port as soon as possible". Moavero Milanesi was speaking after the European Commission said Sophia's remit would be strategically revised soon.
    He also spoke after Interior Minister Salvini said Italy would close its ports to European navy ships, as it has done with NGO ships.
    Only the mandate of the Themis mission, unlike that of the the EunavForMed Sophia mission, does not envisage all the EU ships involved necessarily offloading their rescued migrants in Italy, EU sources said Monday. The Themis mandate envisages the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) deciding what is the safe European port to offload migrants, and this is not necessarily envisaged in the MRCC's home country, the sources said. For Operation Sophia, on the other hand, the Triton operational plan is still being applied, which envisages all landings in Italy".
    European Commission migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Monday the EC would shortly discuss Interior Minister Salvini's demand to close Italian ports to ships taking part in international missions that rescue migrants. "A revision of the strategic mandate" of Operation Sophia "is imminent", she said.
    "Therefore that will be the occasion to discuss Italian proposals," she said.
    Salvini has called for the closure of Italian ports to EU EUNAVFOR Med mission ships but the Italian defence ministry has said he is not competent to do so.
    Labour and Industry Minister and Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio on Monday called for new rules of engagement for the European Union's EUNAVFOR Med mission in the Mediterranean. He was commenting after the differences over migrant rescues emerged on Sunday between Salvini and the defence ministry.
    Salvini, who is also a deputy premier and the leader of the rightwing League party, called for the closure of Italian ports to vessels engaged in international missions in the Mediterranean after an Irish navy ship took 106 rescued asylum seekers to Messina at the weekend.
    A defence ministry source said that this decision was not Salvini's competence.
    Salvini has spearheaded the new League-5-Star Movement government's tough stance on migration, which has seen access to Italian ports denied to NGO vessels rescuing asylum seekers at sea.
    "For as long as the EUNAVFOR Med mission is standing, the only ports (open to it) are the Italian ones," Di Maio told Radio 1.
    "But our aim is to change the rules of engagement of the mission".
    Salvini, Di Maio and Premier Giuseppe Conte huddled over the migrant issue in Rome Monday.
    The government "acts and speaks with a single voice" on migrants, Salvini said on his reported disagreement with Defence Minister Trenta on whether Rome can block EU rescue ships. Speaking after the "summit" with Conte, Luigi Di Maio and Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, Salvini said Trenta "was not at today's summit, not even in spirit".
    Salvini said the government was "absolutely compact" on the migrant rescue issue. He said "one thing is form and another is substance.
    "The government line is a single one to fight human trafficking: I'm happy with what has been done in these first 38 days".