Migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking being tranferred to Maltese boats | Photo: Anne Chaon/AFP
Migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking being tranferred to Maltese boats | Photo: Anne Chaon/AFP

More than two-thirds of the 182 migrants disembarked in Italy from the Ocean Viking rescue ship are to be relocated to other EU countries. The Italian Catholic Church has confirmed it will take responsibility for the largest number.

The Ocean Viking, operated by the SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders, took the migrants to the Sicilian port of Messina on Tuesday. The ship had been stranded for two weeks at sea with 217 rescued migrants on board. 35 were taken in by Malta on Friday.

Italy's interior ministry has announced details of the plan to relocate the remaining 182 migrants disembarked in Sicily. It said on Wednesday that France and Germany had each agreed to take 50 migrants from the ship, Portugal 20, and Ireland and Luxembourg two each.

The remaining 58 migrants will stay in Italy but will be hosted in centers run by the Italian Catholic Church, at no expense to the state, the interior ministry said.

Italy’s interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, thanked the Church for its cooperation. Similar agreements have been reached between the Italian government and the Catholic Church in the past.

Long-term relocation plan to be worked out

Early this week, Italy, France, Germany and Malta announced a comprehensive deal to redistribute migrants rescued at sea. They want other European countries to join the scheme before putting it into effect.

If the redistribution plan is implemented, it will apply for a period of six months to all rescued migrants, except those considered to be a security risk, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday. He said the goal would be to redistribute individuals within four weeks of their disembarkation. 

The deal will not cover migrants who reach European shores on their own, but only those who are rescued by non-government organizations, navy or coastguard. This represents more than 90 percent of migrants who have arrived in Italy recently by sea, according to the DPA news agency.

This year, more than 9,500 people have arrived in Europe from North Africa via the Central Mediterranean. According to the UN migration agency, IOM, at least 658 have died in the attempt.


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