The EUs Sophia migrant search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean will end when its current mandate expires at the end of the month unless its rules are changed to allow migrants to be delivered to other European ports, deputy premier and interior minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday.
“We remain unwilling to accept landing procedures that involve dockings only in Italian ports,” Salvini told a Schengen committee hearing.
“There is no significant progress currently in negotiations despite our request to change the rules of engagement,” he said.
“Unless there is convergence on our positions, we do not consider it opportune to continue the mission,” underlined Salvini, who heads Italy’s far-right League party.
Since becoming interior minister in June, Salvini has taken a tough line on migration and has closed Italian ports to NGO and other ships carrying out rescues in Mediterranean rescues – amid a sharp fall in crossings and arrivals and a spike in migrant death-rates.
Hundreds of boat migrants including women and minors have been stranded at sea for days amid several tense standoffs as Salvini refused to allow them to disembark unless other EU states agreed to take them in.