After Desperate Migrants Jump Ship, Italy Allows Rescue Vessel to Dock

After Desperate Migrants Jump Ship, Italy Allows Rescue Vessel to Dock


ROME — A ship carrying more than 80 migrants stranded off the coast of Italy for nearly three weeks must be allowed to dock, an Italian prosecutor ordered on Tuesday, ending a crisis that had grown more dire by the day as desperate passengers began throwing themselves off the vessel.

More than a dozen migrants jumped overboard on Tuesday alone, news reports said, in a vain attempt to swim the roughly three miles ashore. All were rescued.

The migrant ship, whose landing had been blocked by Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, made port on the island of Lampedusa off the Sicilian coast late Tuesday night. France and Spain have said that they would take some of the migrants, most of whom are African, although the details were unclear.

“There’s been a happy resolution. It took too much time, but we got there,” said Arturo Salerno, a lawyer for Open Arms, the Spanish charity that operated the migrant rescue vessel of the same name. “The chief prosecutor inspected the ship, saw that the situation had become intolerable, and ordered the migrants to leave the ship.”

Luigi Patronaggio, the chief prosecutor of Agrigento, in Sicily, had boarded the ship on Tuesday afternoon with a team of doctors to evaluate the conditions. Mr. Patronaggio also ordered that the ship be seized under Italian law.

The migrants — who had been picked up by Open Arms from three shipwrecks off Libya in early August — at one time numbered more than 160 on the rescue vessel. Sick people, pregnant women and minors were allowed to evacuate bit by bit, but about half of the passengers remained aboard as appeals to other European countries to open their ports went unanswered.

Open Arms called the deteriorating conditions aboard a “full humanitarian crisis” and said the health and safety of the migrants had been jeopardized. Dozens of people were crammed on deck, sharing just two bathrooms.

Mr. Salvini, whose anti-migrant stances have buoyed his surging popularity at home, had banned the ship from landing even after an Italian administrative court ruled that it could enter Italian waters.

This month, Italy passed a new security law pushed by Mr. Salvini, codifying his view of rescue ships as accomplices of human traffickers. The law punishes aid vessels entering Italian waters, allowing officials to confiscate them and impose million-euro fines on captains who defy the law.

Critics say that the Italian measure violates international maritime law, which cites an obligation to assist anyone in distress at sea.

For now, Mr. Salvini may have to take a back seat on the fate of the migrant ship. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned, collapsing the government in which Mr. Salvini’s nationalist League Party had shared power. President Sergio Mattarella will begin consulting with political leaders this week to determine whether a new government can be formed.

Mr. Salvini has himself been investigated on charges of effectively detaining people at sea by refusing to allow them to land. On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter: “Ngo #OpenArms: another landing, another trial? I am not afraid, proud to defend the borders and the security of my country.”

In recent days, with conditions aboard worsening and Lampedusa in sight, some migrants began jumping overboard in an attempt to swim ashore.

“The situation became more and more dramatic,” Mr. Salerno said. The migrants from the Open Arms vessel will be taken to a reception center in Lampedusa, he said.





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