Italy to let migrants disembark after EU sharing deal

Italy to let migrants disembark after EU agrees to share responsibility
2 min read
31 July, 2019
Italy's anti-immigrant deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said he would allow the migrants rescued last week and held on a coastguard boat to disembark.
Italy's Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini will allow the blocked migrants to disembark [Getty]
Italy will let 116 migrants on the Gregoretti coastguard ship disembark "within hours", anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday, after EU countries agreed to share responsibility for looking after them.

"I will give authorisation (for the migrants) to disembark in the coming hours," the far-right minister wrote on Facebook.

Salvini's post came after European countries agreed to share responsibility for 131 migrants who were blocked on board a coastguard vessel by Italian authorities.

An EU Commission spokeswoman told AFP that France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal would join the Italian church in caring for the migrants.

The commission did not give a breakdown on how the migrants would be shared between host countries, but the official said most would stay in Italy.

Some 140 migrants, who set off from Libya in two boats, were picked up by Italian patrols and transferred to the coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti.

The operation took place on the same day that at least 115 other migrants were feared drowned in a shipwreck off Libya - according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Several migrants aboard the Gregoretti have already been evacuated for medical attention, including a seven-month pregnant woman, her two children and her partner.

But Salvini had insisted that the remaining migrants would not be able to leave the vessel until other European countries agree to take them in.

Salvini has taken a hard line against migrants rescued at sea being brought to Italy, which he says bears an unfair burden in the crisis.

'Act swiftly'

Pope Francis on Sunday called on the international community to "act swiftly" to help avoid further deaths.

"I have learned with sorrow the news of the dramatic shipwreck that happened in recent days in the Mediterranean where dozens of migrants including women and children have lost their lives," he said Sunday during his weekly Angelus address on St Peter's Square.

"I am renewing my call that the international community act swiftly and decisively to avoid that such tragedies repeat themselves and guarantee the safety and dignity of all."

Former Italian navy chief Giuseppe De Giorgi, who launched the Mare Nostrum maritime rescue plan in 2013, hailed the Gregoretti's crew who "despite all were committed to accomplishing with honour their duty as sailors to protect lives at sea".

In August 2018, almost more than 150 people were stranded on the Italian coastguard ship Diciotti for over a week before an agreement between the Italian church, Albania and Ireland allowed them to disembark.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab