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Rome threatens to halt EU's Mediterranean rescue mission

Matteo Salvini

Rome, Dec 6 (UITV/IANS) - The EU's Sophia migrant search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean will end when its current mandate expires at the end of the month if there is no change to the rules of the mission - which currently lands all rescued migrants in Italian ports, Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

"We remain unwilling to accept landing procedures that involve dockings only in Italian ports," Salvini told a Schengen committee hearing on Wednesday.

"There is no significant progress currently in negotiations despite our request to change the rules of engagement," he said.

"Unless there is convergence on our positions, we do not consider it opportune to continue the mission," underlined Salvini, who heads Italy's far-right League party.

Since becoming Interior Minister in June, Salvini has taken a tough line on migration and has closed Italian ports to NGO and other ships carrying out rescues in Mediterranean rescues amid a sharp fall in crossings and arrivals and a spike in migrant death rates.

Hundreds of boat migrants including women and minors have been stranded in the sea for days amid several tense standoffs as Salvini refused to allow them to disembark unless other EU states agreed to take them in.