The Latest: Italian minister explains refusal of migrants

The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Italy's hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has given an emotional defense of his decision last summer to refuse to allow migrants aboard an Italian coast guard ship to disembark in a Sicilian port.

Salvini spoke in the Senate ahead of a vote on whether to lift his immunity as a lawmaker to face possible kidnapping charges for refusing to admit some 177 migrants rescued at sea and transferred to the Italian coast guard ship Diciotti last August.

Salvini said his refusal to let the migrants make landfall was necessary to force Italy's European partners to accept the burdens of migrant arrivals, which had disproportionately fallen on Italy as a primary destination of for humanitarian ships rescuing migrants from smugglers' boats off Libya. Within days, European partners agreed to accept the migrants.


12:50 p.m.

Greek police say they are investigating a possible racist motive in a violent attack by hooded men on a group of teenage Afghan asylum-seekers in the northern town of Konitsa.

A police statement Wednesday said the racist violence department is trying to identify the assailants.

The nine migrants were attacked "without provocation" by five men with clubs while playing in an open-air basketball court on Sunday, police said.

The youths, aged 14-18, live in a center for unaccompanied minors in Konitsa, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) northwest of Athens.

The police statement said two of the victims were treated overnight in a hospital after the attack, one for light injuries and the other for shock.

Greece is a major entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.