Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya in new standoff

Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya in new standoff
Migrants disembark from the Aquarius rescue ship in the harbor of Senglea, Malta, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. Malta agreed to let the private rescue ship dock on the island, with the 141 migrants it is carrying to be distributed among five European Union nations in what was described as a "responsibility-sharing exercise." The migrants were plucked to safety by the aid boat Aquarius in two separate operations in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya on Friday, Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)

ROME (AP) — Italy’s firebrand interior minister is threatening to return to Libya 177 migrants who have been aboard an Italian coast guard ship for days following another standoff with Malta.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded Sunday that other European countries take in the migrants after his Maltese counterpart, Michael Farrugia, insisted that the “only solution” is for the Diciotti ship to dock at the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

The Diciotti has been off Lampedusa after rescuing the migrants Aug. 16. Italy asked Malta to take them in, but Malta refused, saying the migrant boat wasn’t in distress and that the migrants declined Maltese assistance, preferring to continue toward Italy.

In a tweet Sunday, Farrugia accused Italy of rescuing the migrants in Maltese waters “purely to prevent them from entering Italian waters.”