Italy to let migrants disembark as EU nations to share responsibility

Rome: Italy will let 116 migrants on the Gregoretti coastguard ship disembark “within hours”, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday, after EU countries agreed to share responsibility for looking after them.
“I will give authorisation (for the migrants) to disembark in the coming hours,” the far-right minister wrote on Facebook of the migrants and asylum seekers who have been stuck on the boat docked in Sicily for five days.
Italian prosecutors had opened an investigation into the conditions on the coastguard supply vessel, where the rescued migrants had only one toilet between them, Italian media reported.
An EU Commission spokeswoman said earlier Wednesday that France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal would join the Italian Roman Catholic church in caring for the migrants. The Commission did not give a breakdown on how the migrants would be shared between host countries, but the official said most would stay in Italy.
Some 140 migrants, who set off from Libya in two boats, were picked up by Italian patrols and transferred to the coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti. The operation took place on the same day that at least 115 other migrants were feared drowned in a shipwreck off Libya — according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Several migrants aboard the Gregoretti have already been evacuated for medical attention, including a seven-month pregnant woman, her two children and her partner as well as 15 minors.
But Salvini had insisted that the remaining migrants, and the coastguard crew, would not be able to leave the vessel until other European countries agree to take them in. Salvini, also interior minister, has taken a hard line against migrants rescued at sea being brought to Italy. French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that 14 EU members had approved a plan to redistribute refugees rescued in the Mediterranean, and eight said they would actively take part. — AFP