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Thousands of Migrants in Limbo After Italy Closes Borders (Again)


ROME — SOS call made on Tuesday as Italy’s new far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni spoke before parliament. Two wooden fishing boat with a total of about 1,300 migrants and refugees in need of rescue between Italy and Malta. Twelve people died from dehydration. Some jumped excessively. The engines had long since stopped working and the supplies of drinking water and food were nearly exhausted.

As various humanitarian organizations contacted the Italian and Maltese coast guards with details on how to find the ships on the list, Meloni’s new Interior Minister Matteo Pingedosi announced that The border has been closed to NGO rescue ships. It means Ocean Viking and flagged Germany My humanity—A full 300 people have been rescued on board ships from other sunken ships — will not be allowed into Italian waters because they violate the law and are not “in line with the spirit of European and Italian rules on border control and security and on combating illegal immigration. ”

And since lifeboats can’t leave the migrants and refugees they’ve rescued, they certainly don’t have room to rescue another 1,300, even if they can reach them before it’s too late. .

Nearly 24 hours after Meloni’s speech, 1,300 people are still at sea. Humanitarian group Alarm Phone, which acts as an unofficial switchboard between migrants on board, lifeboats and the coast guard, says no one has even acknowledged their demands from Malta or Italy. They tried to stay in touch with the people on board, but the cell phone’s battery life would soon make that impossible. “We spoke to people on the boat who were afraid of drowning,” they tweeted early Wednesday. “We informed the authorities more than 15 hours ago, why have rescue operations not been carried out yet?!”

The reason that no merchant ships passed, no NGO ships, and not even the Italian coast guard or navy rescued the increasingly desperate people was simple. Once on board, they can stay there for weeks because Italy has declared “no further” to the incoming migrants. The Ocean Viking and My humanity formally requested a secure gateway and both were denied. The only sensible option for them was to go to Malta.

In 2018, when the far-right Matteo Salvini became Interior Minister, he did the same thing and a lifeboat took three days to Spain to find a safe place to leave those on board, most of them are fleeing poverty, war. , and political persecution. No lifeboats were allowed to reach Italy until his government collapsed a few months later.

A spokesman for a humanitarian group told The Daily Beast that the most likely reason so many people were traveling in boats that normally only carry a few hundred people was that the boats had left Libya to try to reach Italy before the government declared it. sworn in – that was supposed to be earlier this week.

But thanks to the strong election results, Meloni’s government was essentially fast-tracked and was sworn into office on Sunday, with its first speech to parliament on Tuesday — and an anti-campaign campaign promise. Her strong border immigration suddenly became a reality. She said Italy would close its borders to illegal immigrants. “As with any other serious state, you are not entering illegally, you are just entering by law,” she said.

But for the 1,300 people on board increasingly dangerous ships, there is no legal route to Europe. Their departure from Libya means that they are in the hands of traffickers, who are capable of taking thousands of people each in exchange for the promise of landing on the mainland.

Nearly 78,000 people have reached Italy by sea so far in 2022 – a 51% increase from a year ago. According to the United Nations human rights organization UNHCR, more than 27,000 people have traveled to Spain and more than 12,000 in Greece. More than 1,500 people have died trying to cross it so far this year.

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