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Italy’s populists accuse Malta of refusing migrants port

June 9, 2018
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Migrants line-up after disembarking at the Reggio Calabria harbor, Southern Italy, Saturday, June 9, 2018. More than 200 migrants arrived at the Reggio Calabria port on Saturday after being rescued by the NGO Sea Watch on Thursday during two different operations. (Marco Costantino/ANSA via AP)

MILAN (AP) — The first group of migrants to arrive in Italy since a populist government took office is at the center of a spat between Italy’s new interior minister and fellow EU member Malta.

Some 230 African migrants landed in Calabria on Saturday after receiving authorization from the Interior Ministry. But before their ship docked, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini lashed out at Malta for allegedly denying the vessel permission to port.

The Maltese government denied the accusation late Friday, saying it “adheres to its obligations at all times.”

A spokeswoman for Sea Watch, the private organization operating the recue ship, told Italian news agency ANSA that the coordination of rescues “is not the competence of NGOs.”

Giorgia Linardi says many of the passengers were dehydrated from their journeys and the wait for port authorization.

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