Italy says terrorists have infiltrated migrant boats from Libya

Matteo Salvini
Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League.

Italy’s interior minister said on Wednesday terrorists have used recent upheaval in Libya to infiltrate migrant boats heading for the country’s ports.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, said his country would refuse to allow the vessels to dock.

“Islamic terrorist infiltration is no longer a risk, it has become a certainty: it is therefore my duty to reiterate that no docking will be allowed on Italian shores” Mr Salvini said in a radio interview.

More than 8,000 people have fled Tripoli following General Khalifa Haftar’s assault on the Libyan capital nearly two weeks ago.

The political instability has sparked fears that thousands more Libyans will risk the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to flee the conflict.

On Tuesday Libya’s prime minister Fayez Al Sarraj said he believed more than 800,000 of his people could flee to Europe if fighting continued.

“What’s going to happen with this security breakdown is that 800,000 illegal migrants on Libyan ground will have to leave Libya and will cross the sea towards Europe,” he told Sky News.

Mr Al Sarraj warned that among the number of migrants would be “terrorists and criminals”.

Earlier this week, 62 migrants aboard a German NGO ship were refused entry into Italian territorial waters.

The migrants, who were rescued by the Alan Kurdi vessel off Libya, arrived in Malta on Saturday after an agreement between Germany, Portugal, France and Luxembourg to let them in.

Mr Salvini said he personally wrote to the rescue ship’s captain to say the boat would not be allowed to dock in Italy.

Last month, the hardline minister said Italian ports would be shut off to migrant rescue vessels operating in the Mediterranean to force other EU countries to share the burden.