Italian ship brings more than 900 rescued migrants to Sicily

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Italian ship brings more than 900 rescued migrants to Sicily
The Italian coast guard ship Diciotti arrives in Catania, Sicily. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

An Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily on Wednesday, shortly after Italy controversially turned away a foreign vessel with rescued migrants on board.


The Diciotti ship arrived at the port of Catania and the migrants began to disembark, an AFP photographer saw. 

An official in the Catania coastguard told AFP there were more than 900 migrants, who were saved in multiple rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

Italy's new populist government came under fire on Tuesday from its EU neighbours after refusing to let a foreign rescue boat carrying 629 migrants dock in Italy. The migrants aboard the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, were stuck on the overloaded ship as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them, until Spain stepped in and said the migrants could land at the port of Valencia. 

The Aquarius was heading for Spain on Wednesday, escorted by two Italian vessels that between them had taken more than 500 of the passengers aboard.

Red Cross volunteers help people disembark from the Diciotti. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini insisted on Tuesday that the country's ports would no longer be open to foreign boats carrying migrants. He has repeatedly accused charities of working with human traffickers, but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself.

"We have put a stop to the NGOs. The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand," he said.

On Wednesday Italy summoned the French ambassador after France's President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of "irresponsibility" over its refusal to let the Aquarius dock.

Speaking to the senate, Salvini said "he hoped for an official apology as soon as possible" from France.

Salvini, the head of the anti-immigration League party, has repeatedly vowed to stem the flow of migrants to Italy, which has seen more than 700,000 arrive on its shores since 2013.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive. That has put pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.



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