Ocean Viking allowed to port in Italy

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A charity ship carrying people rescued in the Mediterranean said it had permission to dock in Italy as European governments tried to agree where the migrants should go.

The relocation of rescued migrants is a contentious issue for the European Union, with the influx fuelling the rise of anti-immigrant parties in states including Italy.

An Italian interior ministry source said Germany and France would take in some of the 403 migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, run by the French NGO SOS Méditerranée, with Ireland and Luxembourg expected to help.

SOS Méditerranée was told to take those rescued, including 38 women and 149 minors, to Taranto .

Two other rescue ships carrying 230 people were waiting to be assigned a safe port either in Italy or Malta.

Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s rightist League party, condemned the decision to allow Ocean Viking in Italy.

“The number of migrant arrivals has risen 500% in January 2020. Madness!!!” he wrote on Twitter. “Those who allow this are accomplices.”

Italy’s interior ministry said 870 boat migrants came to the country this month, after 155 in the same period last year. This does not include those on the Ocean Viking.

Migrant departures from Libya jumped following fighting.

In September, interior ministers from five EU countries agreed on a new scheme to distribute rescued migrants to relieve pressure on states including Italy.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has better relations with European partners and charity organisations than her predecessor, Salvini.



Interior ministry data published in December said other EU countries were offering to take 80% of migrants who qualified for relocation.