A Danish cargo ship that rescued more than 100 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week has been allowed by Italy to dock at one of its ports.
The Alexander Maersk, which had been in limbo for the last couple of days about wether or not it could dock in Italy, was allowed to enter the port of the Sicilian town of Pozzallo on Tuesday.
“We will accept these people with our customary humanity,” Pozzallo mayor Roberto Ammatuna said according to local news reports.
“Today is an important day because it has showed that solidarity is still a widespread feeling.”
The news comes as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Tuesday that the rescue ship Lifeline, stranded for days in the Mediterranean, would go to Malta with Italy agreeing to welcome some of the hundreds of people on board.
“I just got off the phone with (Maltese) president Muscat: the NGO ship Lifeline will dock in Malta,” said Conte in a statement.
The Alexander Maersk ship took on 113 people saved by the Lifeline rescue ship last Friday after being told to do so by the Italian coastguard.
However, after taking on board the refugees, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini did not allow the ship to dock in Italy to drop them off.
The ship remained anchored about three nautical miles off the Sicilian coast.
During the weekend, five people were brought to Italy because of medical reasons. However, the remaining 108 people stayed behind on the ship.
On Monday, Pozzallo Mayor Ammatuma and National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty, Mauro Palma, asked Salvini to also let the other refugees enter Italy.
Their pleas were echoed by Danish Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, who called on Italy to let the refugees in.
She added that the situation was costing the Danish Maersk shipping company “a lot of money”.
On Monday evening, Salvini, who is not only interior minister but also leader of the far-right League party, said the Alexander Maersk could dock in Sicily.
The refugees on the ship were saved by Lifeline, part of the German NGO mission that is patrolling the Mediterranean to rescue refugees trying to make the dangerous crossing from North Africa to Europe.
The Lifeline currently has 234 refugees on board, but it is not allowed to dock in Italy or Malta.
According to French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux a solution for that crisis seems closer.
“As I speak, a European solution seems to be emerging: (it) would be a docking in Malta,” Griveaux told RTL Radio.
The Lifeline rescued the migrants, including children and pregnant women on Thursday, but the vessel has been stranded in the Mediterranean since then.
Italy has turned away several rescue vessels in recent weeks, with its new populist government demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states.
One of the ships, the Aquarius, was forced to travel to Spain to offload the refugees it had saved.
Under the European Union’s so-called Dublin rules, asylum-seekers must be processed in the country where they first arrive, usually Italy, Greece or Spain.
EU leaders last December had set the end of June as a deadline to establish a permanent mechanism to distribute asylum-seekers throughout the bloc – but an agreement has proved elusive.
Last weekend, EU leaders held a meeting to discuss the issue. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to forge ahead with like-minded leaders on ways to reduce the number of people arriving and share responsibility for those who land on Europe’s shores.
Merkel, who is scrambling to prevent a mutiny in her government over migration, admitted there were still “some differences” but also “a great deal of common ground”.