Italy Threatens to Close Ports Due to Overwhelming Flow of Migrants

Migration a 'biblical exodus', says Italian MP

United Nations figures noted that approximately 82,000 migrants have arrived to Italy in the past year.

Italian news agency ANSA said Italy was proposing a ban on non-Italian-flagged rescue ships disembarking migrants in Italian ports, though not those participating in the EU's Frontex rescue operation.

Rome's EU ambassador, Maurizio Massari, met EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and told him that "the situation we are facing is serious and Europe can not turn its back", an Italian government source said.

Italy has seen more than 500,000 refugees and migrants arrive by boat since 2014. The Italian coast guard co-ordinate the rescue operations in the Mediterranean, but many foreign vessels, including many chartered by NGOS, are involved. That would affect mostly European-based humanitarian rescue ships, which have flooded the waters off Libya's coast in the past year to pick up migrants.

One of the reasons behind Italy's proposal to close its borders is to try to stop migrants from moving North Africa.

The 400 Turkish border crossings suggest that a deal struck between Brussels and Ankara - for migrants to be turned around before reaching the European Union - is breaking down.

Almost 77,000 migrants have landed in Italy since January, up 15 percent on the same period in 2016.




"If we continue with these figures, the situation will be unmanageable even for a country as big and open as ours", said the Italian president Sergio Mattarella in Ottawa, cited by the Italian media.

"We support Italy and France must do its bit on the asylum of people seeking refuge", he said.

Italy's ruling, center-left Democratic party has come under pressure over the migrant issue.

After meeting Ambassador Massari on Wednesday, EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos praised Italy's exemplary behavior to date and agreed: "Italy is right that the situation is untenable".

Also among Wednesday's arrivals was a Spanish Navy ship bringing over 900 migrants to the Italian island of Sardinia, including 126 women - six of them pregnant - and about 50 youngsters, some of them without accompanying adults.

In a sign of the deepening chaos in the north African country, a five-vehicle United Nations convoy was ambushed Wednesday 30 kilometers from the Libyan capital Tripoli.

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