Ital­ian min­is­ter agrees to let 27 mi­nors off mi­grant ship

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

ROME — Italy’s hard­line 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.

In re­cent days, Premier Giuseppe Conte had writ­ten to In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini de­mand­ing that mi­nors be al­lowed off the boat.

After ini­tially re­fus­ing, Salvini wrote back Saturday with a three-page mis­sive of his own say­ing he would do so but made clear it was Conte’s choice and that it didn’t set a prece­dent.

Span­ish aid group Open Arms said the de­ci­sion con­cerned 27 un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors who were picked up off Libya ear­lier this month along with more than 100 other mi­grants. The mi­nors were trans­ferred Saturday to an Ital­ian bor­der pa­trol boat for dis­em­barka­tion and pro­cess­ing on the Si­cil­ian is­land of Lampe­dusa.

The fate of the other mi­grants still aboard the Open Arms off Lampe­dusa re­mained un­cer­tain.

Open Arms had won a le­gal bat­tle to en­ter Italy’s ter­ri­to­rial waters, and Conte had se­cured of­fers from Spain and five other Euro­pean Union na­tions to take the mi­grants in. But the ship re­mained off the coast be­cause of Salvini’s pol­icy pro­hibit­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid groups from dock­ing.

The stand­off over the Open Arms came as an­other hu­man­i­tar­ian res­cue boat, the Ocean Vik­ing, main­tained its course off Italy with 356 mi­grants aboard and no port to dis­em­bark.

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