Rome: More than 8,000 migrants have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 hours in hard weather conditions, Italy's coastguard said Tuesday.
In the space of just 48 hours this week, 10,000 were pulled from leaking rubber dinghies and decrepit wooden boats and safely transported to Sicily and other parts of southern Italy.
"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.
The law requires the rescue of people in distress on the high seas, and this self-blockade of Italian ports would leave migrants floating in the Mediterranean, including those in most NGO rescue ships.
According to the Italian ministry of the Interior, more than 73 300 migrants arrived on national territory since the beginning of the year, up more than 14% on the same period in 2016.
It has been reported that the government has given its ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, a mandate to raise the issue formally with the European commission to seek permission for a drastic revision of EU asylum procedures, the report says.
Other EU nations have closed their borders to migrants, hoping to block them from moving north. Poland and Hungary have refused to host some asylum seekers to help ease the burden on Italy and Greece, another front line country. In municipal elections this month the coalition lost ground to center-right parties such as Matteo Salvini's Northern League, which has called for a "stop to the invasion".
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. Italy has been at the forefront of the European Union's efforts to cope with the historic levels of migration in recent years.
"But what we're also saying is that any change in policy should first be discussed with other member states, and also properly communicated to the NGOs who are running these boats so that they have time to prepare".
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