Italian Coastguard Rescues Over 1,000 Migrants

Italy’s coastguard said Wednesday it had rescued more than 1,000 migrants from two fishing boats in the Mediterranean overnight, while two bodies had been recovered.

The two “complex” operations off the coast of Syracuse in Sicily, involving boats from Libya, followed an alert on Tuesday from Alarm Phone, a group running a hotline for migrants needing rescue.

From the first boat, about 35 miles from the Sicilian coast, an Italian coastguard ship rescued 416 migrants while a Spanish patrol vessel working with EU border force Frontex rescued another 78.

From a second fishing boat, 60 miles from the coast, vessels from the coastguard and Italy’s financial crime police intervened to rescue 663 migrants and “two lifeless bodies” were recovered, it said.

Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vowed Tuesday to stop migrants crossing in boats from Africa, in her first speech to parliament since taking office at the weekend.

Meloni said her government, the country’s most far-right since World War II, wanted to “stop illegal departures and break up human trafficking”, notably by preventing departures from crisis-hit Libya.

She insisted it was time to stop traffickers “being the ones who decide who gets in.”

Italy has long been on the migration frontline, taking in tens of thousands of people who attempt the world’s deadliest crossing yearly.

Two charity ships currently operating in the Mediterranean, the SOS Humanity’s ship Humanity 1 and SOS Mediterranee’s Ocean Viking, were on Tuesday carrying around 300 people between them after multiple rescues.

But Meloni’s new interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, said the ships were “not in line with the spirit of European and Italian regulations” on border security, and that he was deliberating whether to ban their entry into Italian waters.

Piantedosi has close ties to Meloni’s coalition partner Matteo Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking migrants at sea in 2019 during his stint as interior minister.