New Italy govern­ment lets mi­grants dis­em­bark

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

ROME (AFP) — Italy on Satur­day agreed to al­low res­cue ship Ocean Vik­ing to dis­em­bark 82 mi­grants on Lampe­dusa, in a re­ver­sal of the hard­line pol­icy un­der the coun­try’s ex-in­te­rior min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini.

Far-right leader Salvini was forced out of of­fice last month af­ter bring­ing the govern­ment down, and the new coali­tion has been try­ing to forge its own mi­grant stance.

It is the first time in 14 months that Italy has of­fered a mi­grant res­cue ship a safe port, al­though it took Rome six days and Euro­pean guar­an­tees to re­dis­tribute the mi­grants be­fore it did so.

“The Ocean Vik­ing just re­ceived in­struc­tions from the Mar­itime Res­cue Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­tre of Rome to pro­ceed to Lampe­dusa,” SOS Mediter­ra­nee, which op­er­ates the ves­sel, tweeted.

French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said there had been an “ad hoc” agree­ment to di­vide the mi­grants be­tween five coun­tries — Italy, France, Ger­many, Por­tu­gal and Lux­em­bourg.

France and Ger­many have agreed to take 25 per­cent of the mi­grants each, with Italy to take 10 per­cent.

“We now need to agree on a gen­uine tem­po­rary Euro­pean mech­a­nism,” Cas­taner added.

The Ital­ian coast­guard will send a ves­sel to pick up the mi­grants at sea in or­der not to dis­turb port op­er­a­tions, Ital­ian me­dia re­ported.

Un­der far-right leader Salvini, char­ity ves­sels with res­cued mi­grants on board faced fines of up to a mil­lion eu­ros as well as the ar­rest of the cap­tain and im­pound­ing of the boat.

“Hav­ing been des­ig­nated a place of safety that qual­i­fies as such is good news,” said Ni­cola Stalla, search and res­cue co­or­di­na­tor aboard the Ocean Vik­ing.

“Af­ter dis­em­barka­tion, the Ocean Vik­ing should head back to her search and res­cue mis­sion… be­cause peo­ple con­tinue to die in these wa­ters where no res­cue ship is cur­rently present,” Stalla said in a state­ment.

Refugee camp of Europe

Salvini pulled the plug on the pre­vi­ous govern­ment in Au­gust in the hope of snap elec­tions.

His move back­fired and the League leader is now in op­po­si­tion af­ter pre­vi­ous ally the Five Star Move­ment and the cen­tre-left Demo­cratic Party agreed a coali­tion.

“Here we go, ports open with­out lim­its,” Salvini tweeted af­ter the safe port an­nounce­ment.

“The new govern­ment is re­open­ing the ports, Italy re­turns to be­ing the refugee camp of Europe. Abu­sive min­is­ters who hate Ital­ians,” he wrote.

While Salvini spent much of his time as min­is­ter launch­ing di­a­tribes against mi­grants and res­cue char­i­ties, his re­place­ment is a civil ser­vant and im­mi­gra­tion expert, Lu­ciana Lamorgese.

Ital­ian for­eign min­is­ter and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio, Salvini’s for­mer ally, told Ital­ian tele­vi­sion that “the safe port was as­signed be­cause the Euro­pean Union agreed to our re­quest to take most of the mi­grants”.

Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders), which runs the ship jointly with SOS Mediter­ra­nee, said the group com­prised 58 men, six women and 18 mi­nors.

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