Twenty-seven unaccompanied migrant minors were allowed to disembark from the Open Arms rescue ship, anchored off the Italian island of Lampedusa, between Sicily and North Africa on Saturday, according to the Spanish NGO Proactiva, which owns the vessel.
“They will be evacuated by the coastguards of Lampedusa” tweeted Proactiva after the Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, reluctantly authorised the disembarkation, while demanding that the other migrants, 107 accompanied adults and minors, remain on board.
Six European countries have nevertheless accepted to welcome them.
“The Commission has had intensive contacts over the past week and we are very grateful for the cooperation of France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain” ,the European Commission said on Friday.
However “no European country has made formal steps to accommodate migrants on board,” according to the Italian Interior Ministry.
Salvini wrote a letter earlier to the head of the Italian government, Giuseppe Conte, in which he said he could allow “suspected” minors to leave the Open Arms.
On Friday, the commander of the ship, which is only a few hundred meters from the port of Lampedusa, described an explosive situation among the migrants forbidden to disembark.
“Everyone is psychologically broken, this situation has become unsustainable,” Marc Reig told Spainish media.
“Every second that passes, the bomb is coming closer. Unless someone cuts the red wire and disables the bomb now, the Open Arms will explode. (…) It’s inhumane. We are close to the mainland and people could swim there. They want to throw themselves in the water.”
The situation surrounding the Open Arms is at the heart of the government crisis in Italy, between the Matteo Salvini’s far right League party and their 5-star Movement coalition partners. On August 8th Mr. Salvini broke the government coalition formed by his party and the anti-system party of Prime Minister Conte. He called for the speedy organisation of elections, in which his party is predicted to win 36 to 38 percent of the vote according to latest polls.