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European Union urges Italy against sudden migrant boat shutout

European Union urges Italy against sudden migrant boat shutout

A total of 76,873 migrants and refugees reached Italy between January 1 and June 28, compared to 67,773 in the same period previous year, according to Interior Ministry data published on Wednesday.

Almost 77,000 migrants have landed in Italy since January, up 15 percent on the same period in 2016.

Other EU nations have closed their borders to migrants, hoping to block them from moving north. Poland and Hungary have refused to host some asylum seekers to help ease the burden on Italy and Greece, another front line country.

Italy is taking a formal step with the European Commission in relation to the large numbers of asylum seekers landing on its shores, ANSA sources said Wednesday.

The EU has appealed to Italy not to make good on a threat to close its ports to boats carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.

The UN Migration Agency said 8,863 migrants were rescued trying to reach Italy from Libya between June 24 and 27.

More than 10 200 migrants were rescued between Sunday and Tuesday off the coast of Libya, including 5000 for the single day of Monday, 3300 Sunday and 1900 on Tuesday. In municipal elections this month the coalition lost ground to center-right parties such as Matteo Salvini's Northern League, which has called for a "stop to the invasion".

After meeting Ambassador Massari on Wednesday, EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos praised Italy's exemplary behavior to date and agreed: "Italy is right that the situation is untenable".

Italy's ruling, center-left Democratic party has come under pressure over the migrant issue.

The Italian coastguard takes the lead in coordinating rescue operations, but numerous vessels run by non-profit groups sail under the flags of other nations - including European Union countries like Germany and Malta.

Also among Wednesday's arrivals was a Spanish Navy ship bringing over 900 migrants to the Italian island of Sardinia, including 126 women - six of them pregnant - and about 50 youngsters, some of them without accompanying adults.

Once they are in the water, she said, "the first imperative - and we don't see any exception - is to save lives".

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