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'Bomb Italian ships!' Shock as Libyan general THREATENS Italy over migrant rules

05 August 2017, 12:39 | Percy Christensen

'Bomb Italian ships!' Shock as Libyan general THREATENS Italy over migrant rules

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The number of arrivals in July was down dramatically on the same month previous year, suggesting efforts to close down the Libya-Italy route to Europe by training and equipping the North African country's coastguard could be having an impact.

In another move to stem the flow of migrants, Italy set conditions for rescue vessels to be allowed to ferry rescued migrants to its ports, including a provision that the craft that pick up the migrants take them to port themselves, rather than transfer them to other vessels at sea.

Italy announced the operation last week, saying it had been requested by Libya's UN-backed government.

Eastern Libya's General Khalifa Haftar has ordered his forces to fire at any foreign ship that enters Libyan territorial waters, according to the Facebook page of Haftar's Libyan National Army.

"It is no secret that migrants and refugees who are intercepted and returned by the Libyan coast guard face horrific abuses in Libya's migrant detention centers", said Leghtas.

The Italian naval vessel, the Comandante Borsini, entered Libyan waters within hours of the vote.

But July, normally a busy month, saw the trend reversed, suggesting various efforts to close down the Libya-Italy route to Europe could be having an impact. Another vessel is expected to follow in the coming days, but Libya's eastern parliament affiliated with the forces of Haftar opposed the decision.

However Italy has no intention to create a naval blockade, which would be a "hostile act", she said, insisting that support for the Libyan mission was the aim and cooperation was necessary. The number of arrivals this year is fast approaching 100,000, UNHCR says, on par with 2016. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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Some 2,230 migrants, a lot of them Africans fleeing poverty and violence at home, died in the first seven months of 2017 trying to make the sea crossing.

Some 2,230 migrants, a lot of them Africans fleeing poverty and violence at home, died in the first seven months of 2017 trying to make the sea crossing.

The U.N. migration agency says 94,802 migrants have arrived in Italy this year through Sunday, up 11 percent over last year and 85 percent of the European total.

But Italians are getting exhausted of playing host to thousands of migrants.

Italian media reported Wednesday that the ship "Iuventa", operated by German NGO "Jugend Rettet" (youth to the rescue) had been impounded on the island of Lampedusa.

The government has introduced a code of conduct for the NGOs and has demanded that armed police travel on their boats to help root out eventual people smugglers.

Sticking points cited were obligations for rescue boats to operate with an Italian police official on board and a ban on moving rescued migrants from one aid vessel to another while still at sea.

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