Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, announced on Friday that Italian ports will be closed “all summer” to NGOs that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.
“The NGOs will only see Italy on a postcard,” said Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and leader of the far-right party, on the radio.
“The harbors will be closed all summer,” Salvini said. He added that the ban concerned not only access to ports but also those who “furnish fuel to the NGOs”.
“As the Italian military and even the Libyans tell me, the NGOs help the smugglers, consciously or not,” he continued, adding that Italy “will continue to save all those who must be saved.”
The minister also said he was “satisfied and proud of the results of the government in Brussels”, at the European Council devoted to the issue of migrants.
“Finally Europe was forced to accept the discussion on an Italian proposal. Compared with the nothingness of the Letta, Renzi and Gentiloni governments, our numerous requests have been accepted. Italy has emerged from its isolation and is playing a role again.”
EU leaders signed an early morning agreement on migration, that was welcomed by Italy, which had threatened to derail the summit in Brussels if it did not show more solidarity with Rome in dealing with the influx of migrants.
Meanwhile, the bodies of three babies have been recovered and a hundred people are still missing after the sinking on Friday of a boat migrants off the Libyan coast.
Nearly 120 people had set sail in a rubber dinghy before it sank, 6km from the Libyan coast. Only sixteen migrants were rescued. They are all young men from Yemen, Gambia, Zambia and Sudan.
An explosion occurred on board the boat a few hours after leaving the Libyan coast, and the engine caught fire. As the boat started to take on water the migrants tried to cling to some of the fuel drums that fell into the water. According to the coast guards, they were sighted by fishermen, who alerted the navy.