“Umpteenth provocation: having stayed for days in Maltese waters, Sea Watch 3 with 47 on board is heading for our shores. No one will disembark in Italy,” he tweeted.
“Ready to send medicine, food and whatever is necessary, but Italian ports are and will remain closed.”
Ennesima provocazione: dopo aver sostato per giorni in acque maltesi, #SeaWatch3 con 47 a bordo si sta dirigendo verso nostre coste. Nessuno sbarcherà in Italia.
Pronti a mandare medicine, viveri e ciò che dovesse servire, ma porti italiani sono e resteranno chiusi. #portichiusi pic.twitter.com/vcGSnuzBzC
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) January 24, 2019
The Dutch-flagged vessel, which is operated by the German NGO Sea Watch, picked up the migrants and asylum seekers – including eight minors – six days ago off the coast of Libya as they made the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.
Since then Malta and Italy, the nearest European Union countries, have refused to let them dock, despite an encroaching storm.
“We're facing a Mediterranean cyclone, a rather rare weather phenomenon with waves of 7 meters (23 foot), rain and icy wind,” the NGO tweeted on Thursday.
? Sul nostro mare si sta abbattendo un ciclone mediterraneo, fenomeno meteo piuttosto raro con onde di 7 metri, pioggia e vento gelido.#SeaWatch sta navigando in questa tempesta cercando un riparo con a bordo 47 naufraghi soccorsi sabato scorso.
— Sea-Watch Italy (@SeaWatchItaly) January 24, 2019
“#SeaWatch is sailing in this storm and looking for shelter, on board are 47 people rescued out of distress last Saturday.”
The boat is currently headed for waters off eastern Sicily, according to maritime tracking sites, to seek shelter from the weather.
Salvini's coalition partner, Luigi di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) echoed his words, saying those on board would have medical assistance from Italy if necessary.
“After which, I invite them to head for Marseille and disembark its passengers on French soil, rather than waiting uselessly in Italian waters for days,” he said on Facebook.
Twenty organisations including Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and Save the Children, reminded Italy and Europe they were legally obliged to provide a safe port for the migrants under international maritime law.
“These people, especially the most vulnerable such as women and children, must not suffer further and must be guaranteed the humanitarian assistance to which they are entitled and the care they need,” they said in a statement.
- 'Up to Italy' to decide whether to end EU anti-trafficking operation in the Med
- Residents help group of 50 migrants to shore in southern Italy
- Italian church to host Sea Watch migrants
Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP