The Latest: Italy to probe alleged threats by migrants


The Latest on Europe's migrant crisis (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

An Italian coast guard ship has docked in Sicily but is still awaiting permission to disembark its 67 migrants, after two of them were accused of threatening their rescuers if they were taken back to Libya.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Thursday he won't let the migrants off until there is clarity over what happened after an Italian commercial tugboat rescued them over the weekend. Italy's transport minister said some migrants made death threats against the crew. The threats prompted the Italian coast guard to board the migrants and bring them to Trapani.

Salvini said he wanted to know if the crew "exaggerated" in reporting the threats.

Speaking in Austria after a meeting of EU interior ministers about migration, Salvini said: "If someone lied, they'll pay. If there was violence, it will be punished."

Salvini said he hoped Italy's hard-line position on migration becomes the European position, for the sake of the bloc's integrity. He says "if you drastically reduce the departures and arrivals, the problems inside the EU among individual countries will also be reduced."

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1:45 p.m.

France has taken in a group of 78 asylum-seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, after their charity rescue ship was blocked form ports in Italy and Malta.

The French Interior Ministry said the group arrived in France on Thursday from Spain, where the Aquarius rescue ship that saved them was allowed to dock last month.

The ministry said the 78 were identified as in need of protection as refugees and will be housed in regions in southeast and northern France while they go through the asylum process.

The Aquarius, carrying 630 migrants, drew wide attention after Italy and Malta refused the aid ship docking rights. Spain and France eventually agreed to accept the passengers.

France has taken in a much smaller share of migrants in recent years than neighboring Germany or Italy.

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1:30 p.m.

An Italian coast guard ship is in the waters off Sicily awaiting permission to disembark its 67 migrants, some of whom are accused of mutiny and threatening their rescuers if they were taken back to Libya.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to identify, jail and prosecute the "criminals" rescued over the weekend by a commercial tugboat off Libya. Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli has said a few of the migrants made death threats against the tug's crew, apparently fearing they would be returned to Libyan detention centers.

The tug alerted Italian authorities to the threats, and the migrants were transferred to the coast guard ship Diciotti, which remained off the coast of Trapani on Thursday.

On Trapani's docks were activists protesting Italy's hard-line position on migrants. Many wore the red T-shirts that have become a symbol of those favoring a broader welcome for migrants, many of whom dress their children in red to make them easier to spot in cases of shipwreck.

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10:00 a.m.

The top security officials of Germany, Italy and Austria are touting their hard line on migration issues, saying Europe needs to protect its exterior borders and crack down on human smuggling.

Germany's Horst Seehofer held talks with his Austrian and Italian counterparts, Herbert Kickl and Matteo Salvini, Thursday morning ahead of a wider meeting of European Union interior ministers.

Kickl says the group wants "to send a clear message to the world, and especially to the traffickers, that it won't be possible anymore in the future, shouldn't be possible anymore to step on European soil if you don't have a right to protection."

Seehofer says the ministers, all hardliners on migration, are seeking European solutions, but "all three of us know that this is going to be a Herculean task."


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