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Italian ministry stops first Italian ship carrying migrants

By Sommer Brokaw
Two women wearing shirts of the relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres waved to the Aquarius (background), which carried migrants as it entered the port of Valencia, Spain, last month. The French NGO ship carrying some 630 migrants had been headed to Italy before Spain. Italy's stance against migration recently reached a new level with government officials refusing a private Italian ship from entering its ports with rescued migrants. File Photo by EPA-EFE/Juan Carlos Cardenas
Two women wearing shirts of the relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres waved to the Aquarius (background), which carried migrants as it entered the port of Valencia, Spain, last month. The French NGO ship carrying some 630 migrants had been headed to Italy before Spain. Italy's stance against migration recently reached a new level with government officials refusing a private Italian ship from entering its ports with rescued migrants. File Photo by EPA-EFE/Juan Carlos Cardenas

July 10 (UPI) -- Italy's interior ministry has turned away a ship with 66 rescued migrants from one of the country's ports.

The decision to stop the Vos Thalassa ship from docking marks the first time the ministry has turned away an Italian vessel.

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The Vos Thalassa is a private boat that serves oil rigs in the Mediterranean, but on Monday evening it responded to a distress call from off the Libyan coast, where it gathered the migrants, Italian media reported. The Italian coast guard picked up the migrants after the government prevented the Vos Thalassa from docking.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the migrants were "endangering the lives of the crew" aboard the Vos Thalassa. That prompted their transfer to a coast guard vessel, Salvini said. The coast guard ship is expected to dock in Italy and some migrants may be arrested, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said.

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The move follows an announcement this weekend from Salvini, of the Nationalist League, that he wanted to prevent all "international missions" from bringing migrants rescued off Libya to Italian ports.

Salvini has taken a hard line against migration, announcing days earlier that he wanted to completely stop all migrant arrivals to Italy by boat.

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Last month, the new populist government refused to take in the Aquarius rescue ship, which carried some 630 migrants. Spain later agreed to help the migrants stranded for days at sea.

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On Wednesday, interior ministers from European Union countries will meet to talk about migration.

In Germany, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has also taken a tough stance on migration. On Tuesday, Seehofer unveiled a plan to include temporary checkpoints where migrants have previously traveled freely.

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