Italy's new government allows rescue ship to dock at Lampedusa

In break from Salvini's hardline policies, government authorises Ocean Viking to disembark 82 people in southern island.

    Migrants from the Ocean Viking ship which has been drifting in the Mediterranean for two weeks [Renata Brito/AP]
    Migrants from the Ocean Viking ship which has been drifting in the Mediterranean for two weeks [Renata Brito/AP]

    Italy's new government has allowed a charity ship with 82 rescued people on board to sail to the southern island of Lampedusa, in a move that reverses the strict closed-door policies of former Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini.

    The Ocean Viking, run by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), was shuttling between Malta and Italy for nearly two weeks and had appealed for days for a port of safety. 

    The new coalition government, formed of the populist Five Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party, granted permission for the vessel to disembark its passengers in Lampedusa on Saturday.

    "The Italian authorities have just offered #OceanViking a Place of Safety. Six days since the first rescue, are relieved that the 82 rescued people onboard will soon disembark in Lampedusa," MSF Sea said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

    MSF said the group comprised 58 men, six women and 18 children.

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    Fifty of those on board were rescued on September 8 from a flimsy rubber dinghy launched from Libya by human traffickers. Thirty-four others were rescued the next day in the Mediterranean Sea. A woman about to give birth and her husband were taken to Malta earlier in the week.

    Italy's new government under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte formally took office on Tuesday and promised a more humane policy on migration opposite to Salvini's hardline anti-migrant policy that imposed a clampdown on rescue ships. 

    During his 14 months at the interior ministry, Salvini introduced new security decrees barring rescue ships from entering Italian waters.

    Ships that defied the decrees risked being impounded and were threatened with fines of up to a $1.1m.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies