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Italian Politicians Clash Over Migrant Ship Stuck At Sea

The Open Arms migrant rescue boat run by Spanish charity Proactiva. (Photo: Ajuntament Barcelona)
The Open Arms migrant rescue boat run by Spanish charity Proactiva. (Photo: Ajuntament Barcelona)

The Open Arms ship, a migrant rescue boat run by Spanish charity Proactiva, has been stuck at sea for over two weeks as migrants onboard await their fate while Italy debates their future.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini are engaged in a public feud over the handling of a migrant ship believed to be carrying 147 migrants and has been stuck at sea for two weeks. The migrants are believed to be from Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and Sudan and were initially rescued off the Libyan coast.

In an open letter on Facebook addressed to Salvini, Conte called Salvini disloyal and obsessed with keeping migrants out of Italian ports. Conte also said that six E.U. countries (France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg) are now ready to welcome the migrants.

“I will fight until the last day to assert a European mechanism, to be applied almost automatically, to operate a redistribution that sees all the countries of the (European) Union fully involved, so as to prevent the countries of first landing, such as Italy, from being left to themselves,” Conte wrote on Facebook.

Two Italian ministers have also refused to sign off on Salvini’s orders to ban the Open Arms ship from docking on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Salvini responded to Conte’s Facebook letter with his own letter to Conte on Facebook claiming that his “closed ports” policy was working.

“Without this firmness, the European Union would never have lifted a finger, leaving Italy and the Italians alone, as it did in the years of the [Matteo] Renzi and PD [Democratic Party] governments,” he said in the Facebook post.

Salvini has been adamantly opposed to accepting more migrant ships into Italy.

“Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to taken in clandestine, unidentified migrants from on board the Ocean Viking,” Salvini said last week about the migrant rescue ship the Ocean Viking. The Ocean Viking is a migrant rescue boat which like the Open Arms ship searches the sea for migrant ships in distress.

Last week, European parliament speaker David Sassoli, an Italian, wrote to the E.U. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asking the E.U. to provide aid to the migrant ships and to strike a deal between member states to take them in.

Previously, on July 22, France announced that 14 E.U. states had agreed on a “solidarity mechanism” to share the responsibility of taking in migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, as long as they were allowed to disembark in Italy.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Larry N Stout August 16, 2019

    The plight of would-be migrants is a cause célèbre. But the problem is overpopulation.


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