Roundup: 82 rescued migrants land in Italy, gov't migrant policies remain unclear

Tuesday, 2019-09-17 11:19:20
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The Ocean Viking rescue ship has been allowed to land in an Italian port with 82 migrants on board. However, it is unclear how quickly and to what extent Italy's migration policies will change under the new government under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Before the landing, the arrival of African and Middle East migrants arriving in Italy had slowed to a trickle amid the migration policies from the previous Conte government which held power in Italy for nearly 15 months, backed in part by the nationalist, anti-migrant League. This League-backed government collapsed in August.

Now, Conte is heading his second government, but the League has been pushed into the political opposition.

"The landing of the Ocean Viking is a major event, not just for the 82 migrants the ship helped save, but also because it means Italy is starting to getting back in line with the other nations in the European Union when it comes to migrant policies," Filippo Miraglia, an author specializing in migrant issues and vice-president of ARCI, a migrants rights group, told Xinhua.

So far, however, it is unclear how quickly and to what extent Italy's migration policies will change under the new Conte government.

Dario Franceschini, the new government's minister of culture and one of the leaders of the center-left Democratic Party which backs the new Conte government, declared on Twitter that the landing of the Ocean Viking meant "politics and good international relations are back as a way of resolving the migration problem."

Luigi Di Maio, Italy's new foreign minister and head of the populist Five-Star Movement, the other major party backing the new government, was more cautious. Di Maio warned that it would be a "big misunderstanding" to assume Italy had softening its stance on private rescue boats.

"I believe there's a big misunderstanding about a safe port given to Ocean Viking," He told reporters that Ocean Viking had been allowed to land because other European countries agreed to settle most of the migrants on board.

Matteo Salvini, head of the League and the main architect of Italy's closed-door policies toward migrants, threatened that if the Security Decree the previous government passed to close ports is overturned by the new government, he would gather 5 million signatures to call for a referendum to have the borders closed for good.