Migrants sit on the deck of the MV Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by SOS Méditerranée, in the central Mediterranean Sea, June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Migrants sit on the deck of the MV Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by SOS Méditerranée, in the central Mediterranean Sea, June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Geneva — UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi urged the EU on Wednesday to sort out its "shameful" refugee policy after both Italy and Malta turned away a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

About 629 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been in the central Mediterranean since Sunday aboard the Aquarius, a vessel operated by SOS Méditerranée, a Franco-German charity that tries to rescue people making the risky crossing to Europe.

"It is shameful. As a European, I felt shame that there was a boat — there is a boat — in the Mediterranean and for several days nobody wanted to take these people," Grandi said.

The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy’s new anti-establishment government, has heightened tensions within the EU over migration.

"It’s clear that Europe needs to reform its asylum system in a collective manner. There’s a lot of resistance to that but there’s no other way," he said.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told Wednesday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags could not dictate Italy’s immigration policy.

"There has to be a system to share more equitably, the responsibility of allowing this boat to dock and then to go through the process of determining who is a refugee and who is not," Grandi said.

Reuters

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