The Latest: Sicily town gets OK to take ship with migrants
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):
The mayor of a Sicilian port town says he has received approval from Italy’s interior ministry to let a Danish-flagged container ship dock with more than 100 migrants aboard.
The Alexander Maersk has remained off the coast of Pozzallo for days after taking part in a rescue Thursday of migrants leaving Libya on smugglers’ boats.
Pozzallo Mayor Roberto Ammatuna offered to let the cargo ship dock, but the Italian government had refused to assign it a port until Monday.
Italy’s ANSA news agency quoted Ammatuna saying Monday that he was relieved that the “nightmare is over for the 110 migrants on board who can now be welcomed and helped in the best way possible.”
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has closed Italy’s ports to aid groups that rescue migrants, but the situation of merchant vessels or other naval ships that participate in rescues has been less clear.
Italy’s interior minister is challenging France to open its port in Marseille to a German aid group whose rescue boat has been stranded off Malta for days with 234 migrants on board.
Matteo Salvini returned from a quick trip to Libya on Monday feeling emboldened to continue his crackdown on European migrant aid groups. He has accused the groups of essentially running sea taxi services for Libyan-based human smugglers.
Salvini says Libyan authorities across-the-board thanked him for denying the groups permission to port and disembark.
A ship operated by Mission Lifeline has been stuck at sea for several days after Italy and Malta refused to let the crew dock.
Salvini has said the crew disregarded Italian and Libyan coast guard instructions when it undertook a rescue Thursday in what Italy said were Libya’s territorial waters.
Lifeline says the ship was in international waters.
Salvini said: “It would be a nice gesture if the port of Marseille were to be opened for this ship.”
Spain is reporting that it has rescued at sea more than 600 people, more than half of them in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Spanish Maritime Rescue Service says it pulled 377 people from 18 boats in the Strait on Monday, and another 236 from three boats in an area further east.
Monday’s rescues bring the number of people Spain has picked up in the western Mediterranean Sea to more than 1,400 in three days.
The uptick in migrant boats heading to Spain has coincided with clear weather and a calm sea.
Migrants often head from North Africa to Spain, the nearest European Union country, in overloaded, unseaworthy boats.
Italy’s human rights watchdog is seeking information about more than 100 rescued migrants aboard a commercial container ship that has been stuck off Sicily for several days.
The Danish-flagged Alexander Maersk cargo ship participated in a Mediterranean Sea rescue on Thursday with a boat operated by German aid group Mission Lifeline. The aid group’s ship is stranded off Malta with 234 migrant passengers.
Neither Italy nor Malta has given the crews of the two ships permission to disembark the passengers.
Italy’s independent, government-authorized overseer for human rights sent a letter to the Italian coast guard inquiring about the Maersk migrants.
Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday that the watchdog office says the migrants are in Italian territorial waters “and find themselves de facto deprived of their personal freedom” in possible violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
German lawmakers are voicing growing frustration that a much-touted migration “master plan” is dominating the country’s political debate although hardly anybody has seen it.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is keeping the 63-point plan secret from his own staff even as he and Chancellor Angela Merkel haggle over the details.
One of Merkel’s top aides, Christian Democratic Union party general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said Monday “it’s an increasing problem that we have to say we don’t have this master plan.”
An aide to a European Parliament lawmaker recently submitted a freedom of information request for the plan, which has figured in renewed European Union discussions about immigration policy.
Mathias Schindler, a researcher for Pirate Party lawmaker Julia Reda, acknowledged that the formal request for access was unusual. He compared the secrecy surrounding the plan to the British government withholding its Brexit analyses from lawmakers.
Spain’s interior minister is travelling to Morocco this week for talks with officials as Spain each day rescues hundreds of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to its shores.
Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who oversees domestic security, is to meet with officials in Rabat on Thursday.
The Spanish Maritime Rescue Service says it pulled 377 people from 18 small boats Monday in the Strait of Gibraltar. Over the previous two days, it rescued more than 800 others.
The mass arrival of migrants by boat from North Africa in search of a better life has created tensions in the European Union over how to respond.
Spanish Development Minister Jose Luis Abalos told Cadena Ser radio that Spain is taking “a respectful humanitarian approach” toward the plight of migrants. But he added that Spain doesn’t want to become “Europe’s maritime rescue organization.”
Amnesty International is criticizing Italy’s decision to hand off the rescue of some 1,000 migrants to Libya’s coast guard, saying the asylum-seekers are at renewed risk for “torture, violence and exploitation” in Libya.
In a tweet Monday, Amnesty’s Italy branch criticized Sunday’s rescue, in which the Italian coast guard declined offers of help from a Spanish aid group and handed off the rescue to Libya.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in Tripoli on Monday, praised Libya’s U.N.-recognized government for its “excellent work” in rescuing migrants and vowed to do everything possible to prevent aid groups from a “full-on invasion” of Libya’s waters.
Salvini has accused aid groups of working as a taxi service for Libyan-based people smugglers.
Human rights organizations have accused Italy of complicity in Libya’s torture of migrants by helping Libya bring them back.
Spanish authorities say 210 more people have been rescued in the Strait of Gibraltar, as more migrants take advantage of fair weather in the western Mediterranean to make the risky crossing by boat from North Africa to Spain.
Those rescued Monday come in addition to the more than 800 migrants rescued in the previous two days after the winds dropped and the sea calmed. Even so, the Strait is a busy shipping lane with treacherous currents.
Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says it pulled 155 people from eight different small boats crossing the Strait. The Spanish Civil Guard said it rescued 55 others.
The summer wave of migrants has caused divisions between European Union governments, even as it represents a significant drop in the number of migrants who arrived a year ago. Italy’s new government has vowed to deport tens of thousands of migrants while Spain’s new center-left government is urging more cooperation on helping migrants and the nations they land in.
The provocative street artist Banksy is believed to have taken his message on migration to Paris.
Seven works attributed to the graffiti artist have been discovered in recent days, including one near a former center for migrants at the city’s northern edge, according to the art website Artistikrezo.
Nicolas Laugero Lasserre, the site’s editor, said he heard a few weeks ago through contacts in the French street art world that Banksy was planning a trip. Laugero Lasserre said the first work was found Wednesday — that of a child spray-painting wallpaper over a swastika. He said the wallpaper stencil was used in a 2009 exposition at the Bristol Museum, describing it as “a real signature.”
Banksy’s publicist did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is urging EU member countries to put more money into an Africa trust fund as the bloc looks to set up migrant screening centers outside Europe.
Mogherini said Monday that the fund “has proven to be useful, it has brought results and this is why we are asking for more money from member states.”
EU leaders are set later this week to greenlight plans to screen migrants for eligibility as asylum-seekers at centers in countries including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.
The plans mirror a deal that the EU clinched with Turkey in 2015 aimed at encouraging Ankara to stop refugees setting out for the Greek islands. That deal has cost more than 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion).