Italian coast guard ship to arrive in Sicily with 67 migrants aboard

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Italian coast guard ship to arrive in Sicily with 67 migrants aboard
The Italian coast guard ship Diciotti in a separate operation in June. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

The Diciotti, an Italian coast guard ship with 67 rescued migrants on board, is due to arrive in Sicily on Wednesday evening after the government refused entry to a private vessel carrying the same people.


Those aboard were rescued at sea by a civilian boat, the Vos Thalassa, which became the first private Italian-owned and Italian-classed ship to be turned away from Italy because it was carrying migrants. 

The Vos Thalassa remains in the Mediterranean, while the people onboard were transferred into the coast guard's care on Tuesday after their behaviour put the tugboat's crew at risk, according to Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli.

The situation reportedly became dangerous when the rescued migrants were told they might be handed over to the Libyan coast guard, Repubblica reported. 

Toninelli granted permission to the Italian coast guard to disembark the 67 people in Trapani, Sicily, despite objections from Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who was the one to deny entry to the Vos Thalassa.


"I will not authorize the disembarkation unless I have guarantees that the delinquents – because they're not refugees – who violently hijacked a ship will spend some time in jail and then be taken back to their countries," Salvini told the media.

"For the moment, no port" for Diciotti, he said, even though the ship was expected to reach Sicily by around 5 pm.

The incident has caused tension between Salvini, head of the hard-right League party, and Toninelli, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S). The two parties share power in a coalition government that is led by the M5S, but has seen its immigration policy dominated so far by Salvini's hardline statements on arrivals by sea.

"It's unthinkable for an Italian ship to be turned away from an Italian port," commented the leader of the M5S, Luigi Maio, who along with Salvini is Italy's joint deputy prime minister.

Salvini met Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of the M5S on Wednesday and agreed on "a common line", according to the interior minister: "to reinforce the safety of Italian citizens" by insisting at an upcoming EU summit with Germany and Austria that Italy not be left to deal with migrant arrivals alone.

READ ALSO: Veteran Italian seaman speaks out about his experience of the migrant crisis

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Photo: AFP



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