Charity rescue ship can dock in Italy


Italy will allow a French charity rescue ship to disembark 104 migrants after the vessel spent 11 days at sea waiting for authorisation to dock.

The interior ministry said in a statement the Ocean Viking could head to Sicilian port Pozzallo, adding France and Germany agreed to take 70 of the migrants aboard.

French charities Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Méditerranée, which operate the ship, issued an appeal asking Europe to designate a safe port for migrants picked up off Libya on October 18.

Among those aboard are two pregnant women and 41 minors under 18.

“After days stranded at sea and enduring horrific conditions in Libya and during their journey, these people will finally be brought to safety,” said Michael Fark, the MSF head of mission for Libya and the Mediterranean.

MSF said an agreement was reached to allow 90 migrants aboard another Mediterranean rescue ship, the Alan Kurdi, disembark. There was no immediate confirmation of this from Italy.

German NGO Sea-Eye, which operates the Alan Kurdi, released a video they said showed shots being fired from a boat flying a Libyan flag as they rescued migrants from a dinghy.

League leader Matteo Salvini, Italian interior minister for 14 months until August, closed Italian ports to charity ships, leaving them stranded in the Mediterranean awaiting authorisation to dock.

Salvini denounced the decision to allow Ocean Viking to port. “Once again the Italian government dropped its trousers. Once again it is doing a favour to an NGO which encourages human traffickers to ply their trade,” he said.

The League’s decision to quit the coalition opened the door for the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) to enter government. The PD pushed for a more moderate immigration policy and looks to Europe to help share the migrant burden.

Efforts to set up an automatic EU-wide migrant redistribution system reaching Italy appears to have floundered and MSF is “sorry” only three countries agreed to take in new arrivals.

Salvini says the new government’s more welcoming approach to NGOs has seen an immediate spike in arrivals, with 2 498 boat migrants reaching Italy in September against 947 in the same month last year and 1 854 people coming ashore this month against 1 007 October 2018.