Italy’s outgoing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has signed a decree banning a rescue ship carrying about 100 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast from entering Italian waters.
The move follows a similar ban on another rescue ship on Tuesday as part of a closed ports policy championed by Salvini to stem illegal immigration from North Africa.
The ban could well be one of Salvini’s last actions as a new Italian government starts to take shape after the ruling coalition, which includes the minister’s League party, imploded.
The Mare Jonio, operated by Italian charity Mediterranea Saving Humans, picked up the migrants in a rubber dinghy which was drifting and was already beginning to deflate.
Mediterranea said 22 of the people rescued were children, some of them very small – “castaways with dummies in their mouths” – while of the 26 women picked up at least eight were pregnant.
Italy has long complained it has not been getting enough support from Europe in dealing with the migration issue and last year Salvini shut ports to rescue ships run by aid groups.
Since then, such vessels have repeatedly been left stuck at sea for days or weeks as EU states spar over what to do with the people aboard.
Last week Malta allowed 356 migrants carried by the rescue vessel Ocean Viking to disembark after six European Union countries agreed to share the asylum seekers.