Saturday, 21 September, 2019

Italy's Salvini allows unaccompanied minors off migrant ship

Migrants are evacuated by Italian Coast guards from the Open Arms Spanish humanitarian boat off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa southern Italy Thursday Aug. 15 2019. A Spanish aid boat with 147 rescued migrants aboard is anchored off a More migrants evacuated from Spanish rescue ship ‘Open Arms’
Deanna Wagner | 18 August, 2019, 18:53

In a tweet, the Open Arms crew said that six people requiring urgent medical attention were removed from the boat.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez "today ordered the port of Algeciras to be ready to receive the boat Open Arms", which is now in limbo off the Italian island of Lampedusa, his office said in a statement.

Italy's hard-line interior minister buckled under pressure Saturday and agreed to let 27 unaccompanied minors leave a migrant rescue ship after two weeks at sea, temporarily easing a political standoff that has threatened the viability of the populist government.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused docking permission because he contends charity rescue boats essentially facilitate the smuggling of migrants from the traffickers' base in Libya.

Earlier this month, he signed a decree banning the Open Arms from Italian waters, saying it was to protect public order.

The League has tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government, and the premier Conte, a former academic who is not from either ruling party, vented his anger in his open letter to Salvini. Some 134 migrants reportedly remain aboard the ship anchored off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

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Open Arms president Roberto Gatti, said it would take the ship seven days to reach the port and it was unlikely that it would be able to travel that far, given the current conditions on board. In the last few days, 40 migrants have transferred by Italian coast guard vessels to Lampedusa, including a few who were ailing and 27 believed to be minors.

The mainly African migrants on board had been plucked from boats in the Mediterranean off Libya.

But a spokeswoman for the Spanish NGO, Laura Lanuza, said undertaking such a long voyage to Spain would be "crazy".

"We are witnessing the deterioration of the physical and mental health of the people on board, and given the extreme situation, we urgently request a humanitarian disembarkation at the port of Lampedusa", said the NGO's founder Oscar Campos. The group says Salvini is using the 107 migrants for "xenophobic and racist propaganda". "What more does @matteosalvinimi need for his political campaign?"

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had called Mr Salvini "obsessed" with keeping migrants out of Italian ports. Salvini said on Sunday that eight of those youths insisted they were adults after setting foot on Lampedusa.

Mr Salvini's League is leading in the opinion polls, having overtaken Five Star, but a coalition between Five Star and the PD is looking increasingly possible.