The Italian government announced on Saturday that it gave the Ocean Viking rescue ship, carrying 82 migrants, permission to dock at Lampedusa, after declaring the island safe. While the number of civilian ships docking in Italy has drastically decreased under former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, it seems Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is not prepared to halt the immigration wave, and wants other EU member states to participate in the relocation of migrants. Lampedusa’s mayor has criticised the docking, Salvini believes that Conte’s move represents a surrender to Europe.
The Italian government’s report reveals that France and Germany will each take a quarter of the 82 migrants, while the rest have yet to be claimed by other member states. The Ocean Viking ship, jointly operated by the French Sos Mediterranee and the Swiss-registered Doctors Without Borders (MSF) linked to George Soros, first rescued 50 migrants, and then another 34 off the Libyan coasts. Libya then offered a docking permit which the Ocean Viking refused. Instead, it has requested a docking permit from Malta and Italy. After a pregnant woman and her husband were allowed to disembark in Malta, there are now 82 migrants on board the ship.
This was the first time the Italian government had started distributing migrants before the vessel entered Italian waters, as the government in Rome only decided on Thursday to tie the rescue ship’s docking permit to the European relocation of the migrants.
In an interview with the German Suddeutschen Zeitung newspaper published on Saturday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Germany was prepared to take in 25% of the migrants arriving at Italy’s coastline. He pointed out that “Germany’s immigration policy was “humane,” and that they would not let anyone drown in the Mediterranean. He also insisted that the newcomers would not overburden Germany’s welfare system. Based on statistics, Germany has relocated 561 migrants from Italy during the past 12 months.
The new Italian government made up of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the left-wing Democratic Party (PD), wants to change the country’s current migration policy. They favour the European re-distribution of migrants instead of closing the country’s borders and ports, a policy introduced by Lega chief Matteo Salvini, Italy’s former deputy premier and interior minister.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte summed up the distribution scheme Rome prefers by saying: if one hundred people arrive, ten can stay in Italy, while the others will be distributed among the other member states. Discussing his ideas in Brussels on Wednesday, the Italian prime minister suggested to set up a new system for the relocation of the arriving asylum-seekers within the EU, and decrease community funding for member states that refuse to participate in the scheme. Conte thinks that if a suitable distribution mechanism takes effect, ships can restart patrolling in the Mediterranean within the framework of the EU’s Operation Sophia, which was suspended this March because of the previous Italian government’s protests.
Lega leader Matteo Salvini said the arrival of the Ocean Viking means Conte “has surrendered to Europe.” The anti-migration politician described the move as Conte making a pledge to Europe that Italy would once again become the “migrant camp of the continent.”
Italy has surrendered to the European will. If they want to send migrants to regions governed by Lega, the answer will be a resounding no. Conte wants to justify accepting the migrants by claiming that they’ll be taken in by other countries anyway. In recent months, I’ve often heard that they’ll relocate some immigrants from us, but there are still thousands of migrants in Italy at the moment, who should have been taken over by others, said Salvini.