Italian minister allows child migrants to disembark rescue vessel

Italian minister allows child migrants to disembark rescue vessel

Italy’s hard-line interior minister has appeared to buckle under pressure amid the political stand-off over a migrant rescue ship with 134 people aboard, saying he will allow minors to disembark after being at sea for two weeks.

Premier Giuseppe Conte had written a second letter to his interior minister Matteo Salvini demanding that minors be allowed off the boat. Mr Salvini wrote back on Saturday with a three-page missive of his own, saying he would permit the move but making it clear it was Mr Conte’s choice and that it would not set a precedent.

It is not clear how many youngsters are on board the Open Arms, or when the disembarkation might begin.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has agreed that minors can disembark from the Open Arms migrants boat (AP)
Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has agreed that minors can disembark from the Open Arms migrants boat (AP)

The stand-off laid bare the split between Mr Salvini’s anti-migrant League and the 5-Star Movement, which together govern Italy.

Mr Salvini is seeking to end Mr Conte’s populist coalition with a no-confidence vote and early election that he hopes will give him the premiership.

Spanish aid group Open Arms had rescued the migrants in the Mediterranean near Libya two weeks ago, and won a legal battle to enter Italy’s territorial waters despite a ban by Mr Salvini preventing humanitarian aid groups from docking.

The ship has been off Italy’s coast waiting to disembark after Spain and five other European Union nations agreed to take them in.

Open Arms said it can no longer guarantee the safety of migrants on board (AP)
Open Arms said it can no longer guarantee the safety of migrants on board (AP)

Open Arms chief Oscar Camps warned on Saturday that the group cannot guarantee the safety of the migrants anymore, as tensions are rising and fights breaking out.

He warned European leaders that as of Saturday, “we cannot be responsible nor guarantee the security of the people on board Open Arms”.

Amid the stand-off, the aid group filed a formal complaint with prosecutors in Sicily alleging that both the migrants and the crew are being held hostage.

- Press Association

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