Forza Italia to probe aims of govt migrant mission

Mare Nostrum surveillance and rescue program causes controversy

(ANSA) - Rome, April 23 - Centre-right opposition party Forza Italia (FI) upped pressure on the government over its immigration policy Wednesday by announcing investigations into its naval surveillance and rescue programme.
    "Forza Italia has requested and obtained a fact-finding investigation into Mare Nostrum to shed light on its aims," said FI Senator Maurizio Gasparri of the programme launched after some 400 people died in two migrant-boat disasters near Lampedusa in October 2013. "The Italian government has employed its Navy, which has become a de facto taxi service for undocumented immigrants," he continued, also calling for new intervention in North Africa to prevent migrants - many of whom currently travel through Libya or Tunisia - from even leaving its shores.
    Senators of the New Centre Right (NCD), a minority partner in Premier Matteo Renzi's left-right government, instead called on the Italian authorities to explore the possibility of taking rescued migrants to ports in Croatia, Slovenia, France or Spain instead of Italy. This, said Carlo Giovanardi and Luigi Compagna, makes sense as many of the migrants who land in Italy are heading for countries in northern Europe. The requests came as Italian navy vessel Aliseo rescued 169 migrants, including 16 women and 64 children, from waters off the southern island of Sicily under the Mare Nostrum programme.
    The Italian coastguard also said 191 migrants rescued Tuesday some 20 nautical miles east of Malta had arrived in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. On Tuesday authorities said a total of 1,149 migrants had been rescued by Italian Navy vessels since Sunday from the seas south of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa under the surveillance and rescue mission.
    The rescues came as Northern League secretary Matteo Salvini said that Italy must suspend rescue operations because they are too expensive and represent an "invasion" of Italian shores.


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