Migrants stand on board the rescue ship Open Arms as they approach Italy's Lampedusa island | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/F.Gentico
Migrants stand on board the rescue ship Open Arms as they approach Italy's Lampedusa island | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/F.Gentico

Germany and five other countries agreed to take in some 150 migrants who have been stranded on a rescue ship off Italy. The country's far-right interior minister refused to allow them to disembark for two weeks.

The latest standoff over immigration in the Mediterranean appeared to be resolved on Thursday after six European Union countries agreed to take in asylum-seekers who are stuck on a rescue vessel off Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the move in an open letter to far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who refused to allow them to disembark.

"France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg have told me that they are ready to welcome the migrants," Conte wrote in the letter.

Some 150 people were picked up by the Spanish charity ship, Open Arms, off the coast of Libya in early August.

They were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa, but have been stuck on the vessel for two weeks after being blocked from docking.

Criticizing 'absolute stubbornness'

The Italian premier also strongly criticized Salvini in the letter, saying that the minister is focusing too much on migration and reducing the complex issue to a simple solution of closing ports in order to score political points.

"If we really want to protect 'national interests,' we cannot limit ourselves to representing positions of absolute stubbornness," Conte said.

Italy's government, which is comprised of Salvini's far-right League and the populist Five Star Movement, is posed to collapse after the interior minister called for fresh elections.

rs/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

First published: August 15, 2019

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