Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.jpg
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano
Photograph: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

Rescue boats on the Mediterranean could be equipped with fingerprinting machines and other apparatus to screen migrants before they set foot on land, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano proposed Wednesday.

Since last year, so-called "hotspot" facilities have been opened in Italy and Greece to identify migrants and separate those who can claim asylum from others who are to be repatriated. Alfano said the set up could be replicated "at sea."

"We are studying a proposal to submit to the European Union to use boats to identify migrants, so that fingerprints and personal data may be taken at sea during rescues. That way we won't have fixed places on land, but hotspots at sea," he said.

The minister, whose remarks were carried by the ANSA news agency, spoke in a press conference with EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos after the opening of an EU office on migration in Catania, Sicily.

Avramopoulos said Alfano's idea was "interesting" and worthy of consideration. "There is a good chance it will be accepted, but we have to assess all the issues, also from a legal point of view," he stressed, according to ANSA.

Human rights groups are critical of hotspots. In a report on Italy, Amnesty International said the system may lead to arbitrary detentions, forced fingerprinting and unlawful deportations of migrants.

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