Council of Europe alarmed by Italy's migrant policy

A migrant is cheered along as he disembarks from the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, which was carrying 47 migrants, as it docked at the Sicilian port of Catania, southern Italy, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Europe's latest migrant standoff came to a conclusion Thursday as 47 migrants kept at sea for nearly two weeks while Italy pressured European countries to take them in finally disembarked from their rescue ship in Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
Swiss Federal Councillor head of the Department of Justice and Police Karin Keller-Sutter, left, shakes hands with Romanian Interior Minister Carmen Dan in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Karin Keller-Sutter attends a two-day informal meeting of European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2019 file photo, Italian Finance Police board the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 after it disembarked 47 migrants at the Sicilian port of Catania, southern Italy. The Coast Guard said in a statement Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 that the ship operated by the German humanitarian group Sea-Watch will not be allowed to leave port due to safety violations. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli, file)
Migrants are photographed for identification as they disembark from the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, which was carrying 47 migrants, as it docked at the Sicilian port of Catania, southern Italy, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Europe's latest migrant standoff came to a conclusion Thursday as 47 migrants kept at sea for nearly two weeks while Italy pressured European countries to take them in finally disembarked from their rescue ship in Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)

ROME — The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner said Thursday she is "deeply concerned" about Italy's treatment of migrants at home and at sea and is seeking clarification from the government about a recent law and move to empty big migrant welcome centers.

Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic told Premier Giuseppe Conte in a letter released Thursday that she regretted the "apparent hastiness" with which one center was emptied. She also cited "disconcerting reports" that some migrants deserving of protections might be made homeless by a new law restricting their benefits.

Mijatovic also took aim at Italy's refusal to let aid group rescue ships dock and its "relinquishing responsibility" of rescues to Libya. She wrote: "I urge you to ensure that the human rights of persons rescued at sea are never put at risk."

Also Thursday, European Union's top migration official urged European countries to stop "negotiating with human lives" and adopt temporary arrangements for migrants on boats.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos met EU interior ministers in Bucharest, Romania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, and told them: "This is the moment to stop playing games and negotiating with human lives."

Current EU rules oblige countries where migrants first land to process asylum claims, placing a heavy burden on countries like Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta.

The countries have repeatedly disagreed on how to divide up and relocate migrants arriving by sea.

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