67 migrants were taken to Italy aboard Italian Coast Guard vessel Diciotti which arrived in Trapani on Thursday last week. The case has been at the center of a political and judicial controversy after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to authorize the boat to dock.
The Italian Coast Guard ship Dicotti, carrying 67 migrants rescued last week by oil-rig tug Vos Thalassa, reached the port of Trapani on Thursday, July 12.
After days at sea, it took the migrants just over 40 minutes to get off. The case sparked a controversy over allegations that some of the migrants attacked the crew of the Vos Thalassa. For this reason, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had not authorized the Diciotti vessel to offload the migrants.
The intervention of Italian President Sergio Mattarella was key in the case as the head of State spoke with government members, in a move that led Premier Giuseppe Conte to announce the boat would be allowed to dock. However, the interior minister expressed "surprise" at Mattarella's intervention.
Two migrants under investigation on assault charges
The first migrants to get off the boat were two men who are being investigated by prosecutors in Trapani on charges of continued and aggravated private violence against the captain and crew of the oil-rig tug Vos Thalassa. They have been identified as Ibrahim Bushara, a Sudanese national, and Hamid Ibrahim, from Ghana. Both were escorted by police out of the boat. Salvini tweeted that their "good times are over".
The mayor of Trapani, Giacomo Tranchida, described the long wait before the Diciotti was allowed to offload the migrants as "a surreal episode". "The important thing for the moment - he observed - is that everything ended well".
The migrants aboard the Diciotti included three women and two unaccompanied minors, a 16-year-old Pakistani and a 17-year-old Egyptian.
Investigations are ongoing
An investigation is looking into what really happened aboard the Vos Thalassa, which rescued the 67 migrants during the night of July 9. The crew was allegedly threatened and surrounded by refugees to prevent them from taking them back to Libya instead of traveling north towards Europe.
However, Trapani prosecutors have said there was no aggression nor a mutiny, as initially alleged. Statements issued by employees of Dutch company Vroon, which owns the Vos Thalassa, have been contradictory. Spokesman Cristiano Vattuone said in an interview that there was "no insurrection aboard, the situation was magnified by newspapers, there was no mutiny and nobody was beaten".
Crew members, however, said they felt seriously threatened after the migrants discovered that the ship was taking them back. The migrants for their part said they were scared but denied attacking anyone.