Italy’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli on June 19 announced his government’s plans to stop Europe-bound migrants in transit countries before they even board boats to cross the Mediterranean.
His comments come as the new populist government closed its ports to rescue ships, one of which was forced to disembark more than 600 migrants in Spain at the weekend, and as migration again moves to the top of the EU agenda, reported Reuters.
But pressure from Italy and Germany has prompt the EU to agree next week to look into creating disembarkation platforms in north Africa and elsewhere to decide asylum requests before claimants get to Europe, according to a draft statement ahead of an EU summit.
Since the end of 2013, hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing violence and poverty — mostly in Africa and the Middle East — have travelled to Libya to then try to reach Europe by boat. Thousands have died during the crossing.
“We don’t want any more sea rescues by Frontex if the European agency then finds itself with no choice but to bring those rescued to Italian ports,” said Toninelli, who oversees the coast guard.
“The battle that we are waging… is to move Frontex onto solid ground in transit countries,” he said at a conference organized in Rome by the EU’s anti-human trafficking operation Sophia. “The political objective is to not allow them to leave in the first place.”