The Government of Italy has allowed 150 migrants to disembark from a rescue ship that was stranded for five days at the port of Catania in Sicily, after ending a dispute with its European Union (EU) partners.
The migrants are mainly from Eritrea and were rescued around ten days ago by an Italian coast guard ship ‘Diciotti’ from the Mediterranean Sea.
They were forced to stay on-board Diciotti, after Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the anti-migrant League party, did not let them off the ship and demanded other EU nations to house some of them, reported Reuters.
Following the demand, Ireland has agreed to take 20 migrants, while Albania, which is a non-EU country, has offered to take 20-25 migrants.
Italy’s Catholic Church has agreed to accommodate around 100 of the migrants, the report said.
At a rally in northern Italy, Salvini was quoted by Reuters as telling supporters: “The church has opened its heart and opened its wallet.”
Salvini also said that Sicily-based prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio had placed him under investigation for suspicion of preventing the migrants from disembarking.
Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte criticised the EU for its lack of assistance and said that Italy may not support the bloc’s upcoming multi-year budget.
Responding to the latest row, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR said that ‘frightened people who may be in need of international protection should not be caught in the maelstrom of politics.’
The agency has also called upon the EU Member States to help relocate the people rescued by Diciotti.