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Rescued migrants won't be allowed ashore in Sicily - govt source

Rescued migrants won't be allowed ashore in Sicily - govt source

Photo: AFP

The 150 migrants stranded for days aboard an Italian coastguard vessel at the port of Catania will not be allowed to disembark, an interior ministry source told Adnkronos on Friday after emergency talks in Brussels failed to end the stand-off.

"No concrete proposal emerged from European countries to resolve the case....the Brussels summit drew a bank. This the umpteenth demonstration that Europe does not exist," said the source, speaking on condition of anonimity.

No basis had been agreed for an accord on new standard procedures for Mediterranean rescues, disembarking and re-locating migrants, the source added.

"Given that Italy has welcomed some 700,000 migrants in the past few years (since 2014), the interior ministry's position is unwavering: no one will be allowed off the Diciotti (Italian coastguard ship)," the source said.

"The government is united on this," the source underlined.

The 150 people aboard the vessel were on Friday reported to have gone on hunger strike. The migrants were picked up by the Diciotti off Lampedusa last week and have been prevented from coming ashore since Monday on the orders of hardline interior minister Salvini, who is due to be questioned in Rome by Sicilian prosecutors on the incident.

Italy's deputy premier Luigi Di Maio on Thursday threatened to suspend his country’s 20 billion euros annual financial contribution to the EU if Brussels did not intervene and redistribute the migrants onboard the Diciotti - remarks dismissed as "unconstructive" on Friday by European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein.

“Unconstructive comments, let alone threats, are not helpful, and they will not get us any closer to a solution. The EU is a community of rules and it operates on the basis of rules, not threats," Winterstein said.

Di Maio's threat also drew criticism from EU president Antonio Tajani.

"At the moment, other European countries do not find the Italian government credible," Tajani said.

"The problem of immigration cannot be solved by blocking an Italian naval vessel," he stated.