Italy ends 10-day standoff with migrants on rescue ship


Italy has allowed the migrants stranded aboard a ship in Sicily to disembark, 10 days after they were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

It follows the reported investigation of Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini over his refusal to allow the passengers in the old port of Catania to come ashore.

Some 137 migrants left the Diciotti coastguard boat early on Sunday, stepping onto the dock where police photographed them for ID checks – a requirement of asylum seekers.

Seven women and six men were earlier let off the vessel at the orders of a doctor after almost a week of being stuck in the port.

Migrants wave after disembarking from Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti at the port of Catania
Image: Migrants wave after being allowed to leave the ship

Italy’s populist government had initially refused to let the migrants leave the ship until other EU nations committed to taking them.

It prompted the United Nation’s refugee agency to implore other countries to take responsibility.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, advised European countries to “do the right thing” and aid the migrants “in their time of need”.

Only Ireland agreed, pledging to take 20.

A migrant is helped by Red Cross members after disembarking the Italian coast guard ship
Image: A migrant is helped by Red Cross members

Non-EU country Albania will also take 20, while Italian Catholic bishops said they would care for around 100.

Before boarding the Diciotti on 16 August, the migrants were spotted on a human trafficker’s boat in the Mediterranean.

There had been 177 refugees on the vessel, but 27 teenagers were allowed to disembark in Catania on Wednesday.

Thirteen young children and ailing adults were previously allowed to leave.

Prosecutors opened an inquiry into Mr Salvini for “illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power”, according to Italian reports on Saturday.

Police photographed the migrants for ID checks when they disembarked the ship
Image: Police photographed the migrants for ID checks

Mr Salvini, who also serves as deputy prime minister and is the leader of the far-right League party, appeared to confirm the report in a tweet directed to the lead prosecutor.

“If he wants to interrogate me or even arrest me because I defend the borders and security of my country, I’m proud,” he said.

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Mr Salvini had previously shrugged off reports that some of the migrants had gone on a hunger strike in a bid to force the government to allow them onto land.

Italy has seen more than 600,000 rescued migrants brought to Italian shores in recent years.

From – SkyNews