Spain to take some migrants on Open Arms ship, says Italy
MADRID/ROME – Spain has offered to take some of around 150 migrants on board a rescue ship that has been blocked from docking in Italy, the government in Rome said on Thursday.
The vessel was in Italian territorial waters early on Thursday, said a spokeswoman for its operator, Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms. Its passengers have been in limbo since they were picked up in the Mediterranean in early August.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had refused to allow them to disembark, triggering the latest of a number of standoffs over immigration between European governments since he launched a clampdown after taking office in June 2018 on refugee arrivals by sea.
But a Rome administrative court ruled on Wednesday that the vessel, also called Open Arms, should be allowed to enter Italian territorial waters. [nL8N25A646]
The office of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that Spain had expressed willingness to take some of the migrants once they had disembarked.
The Spanish government declined to comment but daily El Pais said three unnamed government sources had confirmed Spain’s willingness to take in some of the migrants.
The newspaper said the exact number that Spain would take had yet to be determined, under a broader deal in which France, Germany and others would also take part.
Spain could end up taking in more than 10 percent of the rescuees, El Pais said, without naming its source.
A spokeswoman for the charity said on Thursday that the ship, also called Open Arms, was anchored five miles (eight km) off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Open Arms’ founder Oscar Camps told reporters on Wednesday that the NGO would request medical evacuation for all those on board once the vessel was in Italian waters.
(Content & Photos Syndicated Via Reuters)
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Mark Bendeich and Gavin Jones in Rome)