|Migrants wait to disembark in the harbor of Salerno, Italy (C)AP|
Italy's interior minister on Sunday called on European countries to open their ports to migrant rescue ships as he met for crisis talks with his French and German counterparts. Italy has threatened to close its ports to charity ships that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean if other EU states do not agree to take some of the growing number of refugees onto their shores.
"We are under enormous pressure," Marco Minniti said in Paris before the talks, which are taking place ahead of an EU summit in Tallinn this week. Italian media reports said Rome was likely to call for a European code of conduct to be drawn up for the privately-run aid boats, with the Corriere della Sera saying vessels that did not comply could be "seized".
Over the past week alone, around 10,000 migrants have been ferried to Italy after being rescued from overcrowded, rickety boats travelling from Libya. More than 2,160 have died trying to reach Europe from Africa so far this year, and Italy has taken in 82,000 migrants in the first six months of 2017, 19 per cent more than in the same period last year. Critics say these ships have become part of the business model of people smugglers in Libya, who are able to sell places on flimsy vessels by telling migrants that they are likely to be rescued once out at sea. One rescue organisations, SOS Mediterranee, which runs an aid vessel along with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said forcing boats carrying migrants to go to other European ports would be logistically difficult.