Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Italy to allow boats carrying rescuing refugees dock on condition other countries take them in

Rome’s hard-line anti-migrant government saw two ships blocked from docking

Monday 16 July 2018 21:30 BST
Migrants wait to disembark from the Frontex ship, 'Protector', at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy,
Migrants wait to disembark from the Frontex ship, 'Protector', at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy, (EPA)

Italy has agreed to let boats carrying rescued refugees dock in Sicily, on the condition that other countries resettle them.

Rome’s hard-line anti-refugee government had kept two military ships from docking at Pozzallo until other countries came forward.

Germany, Spain and Portugal have each agreed to respectively accept 50 of the migrants, following similar offers by France and Malta.

The ships came into port and disembarked their passengers, who were seen being screened at dawn on Monday. Many women and children had already come ashore.

Doctors at the scene said one of the men was taken to hospital and was in a critical condition with pneumonia, while the others were in generally good health but suffering from scabies.

Aid workers at the docks in Pozzallo said the migrants were traumatised and needed care.

They expressed alarm that families had likely been separated when the women and children were allowed off the ships, but not the men.

"The reality is that many among these women are very young girls and the children are very young and need their relatives," UN refugee agency spokesman Marco Rotunno said.

"It is unacceptable that these people are blocked onboard and that are not allowed to disembark and that their final destination is being negotiated while they are blocked," he added.

"Disembarking in a safe port should be granted immediately and a fair relocation should be decided at a later stage."

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has spearheaded the country’s tough line on migration, said the redistribution deal was just a temporary solution and that the ultimate goal is for Libya to be considered a safe enough haven for migrants to be returned.

Italy is also pushing for the EU to fund "hotspots" in migrants' home countries where asylum bids can be processed.

"What is prohibited today can be normalised tomorrow," he said.

"The European Union should convince itself that this is the only way to get out of this problem."

The European Commission welcomed the fact that the two ships had disembarked their passengers and that six EU countries had stepped forward, but said such "ad hoc solutions cannot be sustainable in the long term".

Agencies contributed to this report

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in