Italy's Salvini wants 'guarantees' before rescued migrants land

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday called for "guarantees" before allowing an Italian coastguard ship with more than 60 migrants on board to dock.

Some of the 67 migrants on the "Diciotti" (Eighteen) vessel are believed to have revolted on a previous boat over fears they could be returned to Libya.

The sailors on that ship had locked themselves in the control room and called for help at the Rome-based rescue centre, according to Italian media reports.

"For the moment, no port" for Diciotti, Salvini told journalists, adding that any "perpetrators of threats or aggression" would find themselves in prison.

The coastguard vessel could nevertheless dock at the Sicilian port of Trapani. The boat was expected to arrive on Wednesday evening but its landing has now been shifted to Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Once in Trapani, Salvini warned, "the violent pirates will have to get off the ship in handcuffs".

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and leader of the far-right League party, has banned NGO rescue boats which pick up migrants in the Mediterranean from docking in Italy.

He accuses the NGO ships of aiding human traffickers to bring migrants to Europe.

"I will not allow any kind of landing until I have assurances for the Italian people that delinquants, who are not refugees, who have hijacked a ship with violence, spend some time in prison, and are taken back to their homes as soon as possible," he said.

Salvini will meet his Austrian and German counterparts in Innsbruck, Austria, on the sidelines of a meeting of EU interior ministers scheduled for Thursday.

Having blocked the NGO ships, he intends to ask them "not to send ships currently on an international mission in the Mediterranean to Italian ports".

The case of the Diciotti has also highlighted a split within the government coalition, which includes the League and Luigi Di Maio's Five Star Movement whose left fringe is opposed to the closing of Italian ports.

Di Maio, also a deputy prime minister, said Tuesday if the vessel "intervened in a situation... we must follow up and let it land."