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Italian regional court lifts docking ban on Open Arms

An Italian regional administrative court (TAR) of Lazio lifted a ban on NGO migrant rescue ship Open Arms entering Italian waters on Wednesday.

Published: August 15, 2019, 7:29 am

    The decision threatens a enforced closed port policy by Interior Minister and anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini.

    The TAR decision was announced by the Spanish NGO, now heading for the closest EU port with 147 illegal migrants on board. They had been waiting for 13 days since being picked up off the coast of Libya.

    In its ruling, the TAR cited the “situation of exceptional gravity and urgency” aboard the ship after viewing medical and psychological reports.

    Premier Giuseppe Conte sent Salvini a letter on Wednesday morning urging him to let minors from the Open Arms enter the EU, but Salvini reacted by saying he would sign an order banning the Open Arms from landing its migrants in Italy.

    “In the next few hours I will sign my No because I don’t want to be an accomplice of migrant traffickers,” he said. “Tell me if it isn’t a strange country where a a Spanish ship in Maltese waters can resort to an administrative court to ask to land in Italy.

    “There is a plan to go backwards in time and reopen Italian ports, to turn our country into Europe’s refugee camp. But I’m not going back in time”.

    The Interior Minister said he would “contest the decision of the TAR and will propose an urgent appeal to the State Council”. He added: “Not only that. I am ready to sign another provision for the prohibition of entry into Italian territorial waters due to new episodes.”

    Salvini has accused Conte of wanting “hundreds” of illegal migrants to be allowed to disembark in Italy. Salvini, whose party has presented a no-confidence motion in Conte and is calling for early elections, alluded to the Ocean Viking ship run by NGOs SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) which has over 350 asylum seekers on board.

    “We greeted each other,” Salvini said after he and Conte took part in the ceremony marking the first anniversary of the Morandi Bridge disaster in Genoa in which 43 people died. “He has written to me about the disembarkment of several hundred migrants on board the ship of an NGO which, however, is in foreign and in international waters.

    “I responded to him politely. I don’t understand why they have to disembark in Italy”.

    Salvini also rejected a possible “unnatural pact” between former ally the 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) to reopen Italy’s ports to NGO migrant rescue ships.

    “We will be careful over the coming days that an unnatural alliance is not created in Rome, a couple against nature between the PD and the 5 Stars, between [ex-premier and former PD leader Matteo] Renzi and [M5S founder and comic Beppe] Grillo, to reopen Italian ports,” he said.

    “We will try to oppose with all energy we have in our bodies so that decent people arrive in Italy, but we can send back home the too many criminals that the Left has allowed in”.

    The leader of the League has meanwhile signed a new provision prohibiting entry into Italian territorial waters for Open Arms. The fresh round of arm wrestling started with Minister Elisabetta Trenta who had accelerated the landing by sending two Navy ships to escort the Open Arms.

    A government crisis erupted last week after Salvini filed a no confidence motion against Conte after a dramatic split with the M5S on votes on a highspeed rail line between Turin and Lyon.

    Salvini said on Wednesday that Italy should have fresh elections as soon as possible, arguing that the political crisis sparked last week should not lead to “strange governments”. He said that the no-confidence motion in Premier Giuseppe Conte that the League has filed in the Senate will pass on August 20.

    “Lots of people are asking me to make sure there are no power games, no technocrat governments,” Salvini told Rtl 102.5 radio. “The best way, the most democratic, transparent, direct one, is to have elections. We are doing everything possible so that the Italian people can vote.

    “I say no to strange governments. The sooner we vote, the better”.

    Last week, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, called on Salvini to form an alliance in view of early elections. “We form alliances before the elections, not after, because we want to be clear,” Meloni told RAI radio.

    “We are the most coherent party. We are concrete and reliable. I don’t think Salvini will run alone.

    “It wouldn’t make much sense to have another government formed with power games after the vote. It would be better to have an alliance that the Italian people have been called for for months”.

    The other party that traditionally is also part if the centre-right alliance in Italy, is Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

    Salvini’s former allies in the 5-Star Movement (M5S) responded by calling him “inconsistent” for filing a no confidence motion in Conte while allegedly “clinging” to his own post.

    “Salvini’s inconsistency is actually really embarrassing,” the M5S said of their erstwhile government partner. “He and his League ministers have announced no confidence in Giuseppe Conte and the government which they are still part of.

    “So why are they still clinging to their posts?” “Salvini should give up his post, let him do so for consistency. Let him move from words to deeds and show that Italians and not posts come first!”

    On Wednesday evening, while Salvini was speaking to voters from a stage in La Spezia, sources from Palazzo Chigi said that Spain had informed the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers of its willingness to participate in the redistribution of migrants of the Open Arms once they have landed.

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