Italian coastguards rescue over 8000 migrants off Libyan coast in 48 hours

ANDREAS SOLARO  AFP  Getty Images

Thousands of refugees have arrived in Italy over the last week prompting some leaders in the country to say they need to close their ports.

Italy's ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari was given a formal mandate by his government to raise the issue with European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday.

In recent conversations with asylum seekers on Italy's northern border, where migrants stood around sweltering reception centers and loitered around Lake Como, several said that they appreciated Italy for rescuing them from the sea but that they dreamed of moving to Germany or Northern Europe for work.

The Italian government is considering blocking boats carrying migrants from landing at its ports after almost 11,000 refugees arrived on its shores in five days. Italy has become the main point of arrival for all of those rescued off the coast of Libya.

Italy has threatened to stop foreign vessels from disembarking refugees and migrants at its ports. At the current rate, and with months of good sailing weather ahead, the number of migrants is on track to exceed the 200,000 who landed in Italy in 2016.

"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.

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Italy's right-wing Forza Italia party has campaigned for the denial of landing rights to ships carrying migrants.

It was time for European Union member states to "step up", he said, and contribute financial support to Italy if needed, along with aid to African nations like Libya to reduce the numbers of people leaving - a promise made in February.

"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".

Italy is the main point of arrival for mostly African migrants to European shores this year, and more boats are sent out nearly daily.

In a sign of the deepening chaos in the north African country, a five-vehicle United Nations convoy was ambushed Wednesday 30 kilometers from the Libyan capital Tripoli.

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