Twenty-seven unaccompanied minors onboard the Italian vessel "Diciotti" were allowed to disembark Thursday afternoon after days of waiting. The fate of the 150 migrants remaining onboard the ship is still unclear.
Aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had finally been able to meet the children, who according to the Italian Interior Ministry are between 14 and 16 years old. While those unaccompanied minors were allowed to disembark, another 150 migrants remain in limbo onboard the Italian coast guard ship. According to Italian media, their situation was critical and many were suffering from scabies.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has insisted that Italy will not let the migrants - who were rescued over a week ago - enter Italy. He called for their return to Libya in case no other EU country would agree to take them in.
The decision to let minors disembark came after mounting pressure due to an inspection by the federal persecutor of Agrigento on Wednesday and investigations into whether the confinement of the migrants onboard is unconstitutional.
In response to the federal persecutor's investigation, interior minister Salvini wrote in a post on Facebook: "There are minors on board the Diciotti? They’re allowed to disembark, now. […] Italy is a generous country. But for those 20-,30-,40-year-olds, who are resistant, vaccinated and have been to the fitness studio, I am saying: Basta, it’s enough."
Members of the opposition as well as the coalition partner 5 Star Movement are questioning Salvini’s stance. Roberto Fico, 5 Star member and President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, said that the migrants "must be able to disembark. They cannot be held on board any longer", Reuters reports.
According to German radio station Deutschlandfunk, Maurizio Martina, member of the opposition party Partido Democratico, said that "it is absurd that a ship of the Italian state has docked at an Italian port with people who cannot get out. This is an unbelievable situation which shows how incapable the government is. It also shows there is no paradigm shift in Europe. People are not being distributed to other countries."