Italy’s New Populist Government Turns Away Ship With 600 Migrants Aboard


Mr. Salvini and the anti-establishment Five Star’s new transportation minister, Danilo Toninelli, issued a joint statement Sunday night urging the Maltese government to open its ports to the migrants, and to face its responsibilities “for the first time in a long time.”

The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, agreed.

“To premier Joseph Muscat, who I called personally tonight, I asked that he at least take care of the humanitarian aid of the people in difficulty on Aquarius,” Mr. Conte said Sunday night. “Muscat has not guaranteed any action. This is umpteenth unwillingness of Malta, and thus of Europe, to act. Italy is totally alone.”

He then called for a change in the European Union law requiring migrants applying for asylum to do so in the first country in the bloc where they arrived, and for their applications to be processed before they are allowed to go to other European nations.

Such relocations are slow and rare. As a result, Italy bears the brunt of a migration crisis that has drastically transformed its politics.

“We have taken in thousands a day for years, and Malta is not available to welcome even a few hundred,” said Luigi Di Maio, the political leader of the Five Star Movement and Mr. Salvini’s counterpart in the governing alliance. He said that Italy was awaiting a response from European leaders. “It’s about time to say enough.”

The Five Star Movement, which won nearly a third of votes in Italy in March, long maintained a vague line on polarizing issues like immigration. By being hard to pin down, they succeeded in attracting voters from both the left and the right. After the standoff on Monday though, it is now clear that they share the League’s hard line.

The previous government of the center-left Democratic Party also implored European leaders to help share the burden of the migration crisis. They struck deals with Libyan tribes, and possibly human traffickers, to reduce the flow of migrants. (Italy has recorded 13,706 sea arrivals so far in 2018, a significant decrease from recent years.) But they never turned ships away.


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