Overwhelmed by immigrants, Italy threatens to bar the door to rescue ships

The drastic step would, in theory, force ships bearing people fleeing wars and economic deprivation to find other places to dock, shifting some of the burden of Europe’s grinding migration crisis to nations such as France and Spain. Both nations are on the Mediterranean Sea, but they are far more distant from Libya, through which nearly all the migrants are passing.

The proposal probably is a bargaining position taken ahead of a meeting of European migration ministers next week to discuss the continent’s challenges.

But it is also a reflection of Italy’s years on the migration front lines with little help from the rest of Europe. More than 82,000 people have arrived in Italy this year, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Migrant flows into Greece from Turkey have mostly dried up, meanwhile, a result of a March 2016 deal with Ankara to halt the traffic.