Migrants on board Open Arms allowed to disembark after 19 days at port
Migrants onboard the Open Arms rescue ship disembarked the vessel at the Italian port of Lampedusa late Tuesday night after spending 19 days stranded at sea.
It comes after an Italian prosecutor ordered the seizure of the ship.
According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Agrigento city prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio inspected the ship with a team of doctors and concluded that the conditions on board the vessel were to poor for the migrants to remain there.
According to the NGO Open Arms, passengers slept on top of each other on the ship’s deck. In addition, there were only two bathrooms for almost 100 migrants.
The situation worsened when, in an act of desperation, fifteen migrants, some without life jackets, threw themselves into the sea on Tuesday morning to try to swim to port.
“The situation is out of control,” Proactive Open Arms said on Twitter.
To try to ease the impasse, the Spanish government has announced the sending of a military vessel to retrieve migrants from the Open Arms. It is unclear what will happen now that they have been cleared to leave the ship.
Some of the migrants have been aboard the Open Arms for 19 days, matching the record of migrants rescued by SeaWatch3 at the end of December, before docking in Malta on January 9.
On Saturday, 27 unaccompanied minors were allowed to leave the vessel after Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini bowed to international pressure to let them disembark.
On Monday night, a further eight migrants in need of urgent medical attention were evacuated from the Spanish ship to the port of Lampedusa. One other migrant accompanying them also disembarked.
The UN Refugee Agency on Tuesday called on the Italian government to stop holding the migrants as “political hostages” and allow them to leave the vessel.
“It’s a very simple issue and it’s that they can land,” a spokesperson for the agency said, adding that six European Union (EU) countries have offered to receive the 100 migrants once they disembark