An Italian court has allowed 83 migrants who had been rescued at sea to be disembarked, after a political standoff had forced them to stay on board their rescue ship for 19 days in deteriorating conditions.
The Spanish-flagged Open Arms charity search-and-rescue boat had originally picked up 140 refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya into European waters. However, Italy’s then interior minister, Matteo Salvini, had refused all but the medically unfit and minors to disembark after a court allowed the ship to anchor off Lampedusa. He also threatened Open Arms with a million Euro fine and confiscation if the boat landed.
The remaining passengers were finally able to disembark after a local court ruling. Matteo Salvini is no longer in his post, and might be investigated for “kidnapping” for his role in leaving the rescued migrants to be stranded at sea for so long.
Under a European Commission plan, the rescued migrants will now be distributed to European countries that have offered to take them in (France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg), relieving the strain on the small island of Lampedusa and reception centres in Sicily.
Meanwhile, the Open Arms vessel has been granted permission by a judge to set sail from Italian waters.