Italy allows docking of ship with migrants, ends standoff with Malta

A boat overcrowded with migrants trying to reach Italy.

Italy will let its coast guard ship carrying 177 migrants rescued on the Mediterranean Sea five days ago dock in Sicily, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said on Monday, ending a standoff with Malta over where the ship should disembark.

The European Commission also said it was working on a solution to share out of the migrants aboard the ‘Diciotti’ vessel with Italy’s EU partners after a request from Italy’s foreign ministry the previous day.

“The Diciotti ship will dock in Catania,” Toninelli said on Twitter, although he did not specify when that would take place. “Now Europe must hurry to do its part,” he added.

Since taking office in June, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Toninelli have toughened the country’s stance on allowing ships to dock in the country’s ports.

The Diciotti picked up 190 migrants on Wednesday from an overcrowded boat.

The coast guard quickly evacuated 13 of them to Italy for emergency medical treatment, but instead of bringing the rest to shore, the Diciotti stayed in international waters while Rome insisted that Malta should take them since the migrant boat had first passed through its search-and-rescue area.

But Malta said the migrants had refused its aid because they wanted to reach Italy. On Sunday, Toninelli said the small island nation should be sanctioned for not performing the rescue.

After more than 650,000 arrivals on Italian shores since 2014, Salvini has repeatedly said that Italy “will no longer be Europe’s refugee camp”, repeatedly calling on EU partners to share the burden of the arrivals.

At an EU summit in June, government leaders cobbled together a compromise on migration which fell a long way short of the mandatory ‘burden-sharing’ demanded by front-line countries. Brussels said it was in talks with European Union states on who will take the Diciotti people in but declined comment on which capitals or when could offer help.

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