NAPLES, Italy — An Italian navy chief on Tuesday poured cold water on suggestions Europe should adopt Australia’s policy of turning back migrant boats to end the current crisis in the Mediterranean.
A surge in both the numbers of migrants reaching Europe from north Africa and deaths at sea have led to calls for the European Union to consider a similar approach, with the aim of deterring people from contemplating the journey in the first place.
But Adm. Donato Marzano, who will host a seminar of navy supremos from 26 European countries here on Friday, suggested it would not be feasible, morally or practically, to start escorting barely seaworthy migrant boats back to conflict-wracked Libya when they were crammed full of people, including minors, pregnant women and others who could be seriously ill.
“There are several countries that apply a policy of expulsion, even by force of arms, others apply the international right to rescue,” the admiral said when asked by AFP if Italy could learn from Australia’s experience.
“I am a sailor who has spent 20 years on boats. If I find a boat adrift, I’m sorry but I don’t turn away.