As several migrants tried to swim to the Italian coast, a transalpine prosecutor ordered their landing.
Italian justice is openly rebelling against Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. When ten migrants jumped from the bridge of the humanitarian ship Open Arms and tried to reach the coast of Lampedusa on Tuesday, August 20, the Italian justice ordered that they be landed, reported Italian news agency ANSA.
It was the prosecutor of Agrigento (Sicily), who made this decision after a judicial police inspection and two doctors. The illegals finally landed in the evening on the island of Lampedusa.
“Nine people jumped into the water trying desperately to get to the coast of Lampedusa,” the Open Arms had tweeted – with a video to support their claim – earlier in the day. “Our rescuers and the Italian coastguard are trying to rescue them. The situation is out of control,” the NGO warned. In the early morning, the organisation reported that another passenger had jumped overboard.
For 19 days, hundreds of illegal immigrants rescued off Libya have been waiting on board the ship, while Italy has banned entry into its ports to all private rescue boats. On Sunday 18 August, Spain had proposed to the crew to go to the nearest Iberian port. The proposal rejected by the NGO, maintaining that would “endanger the integrity and safety of rescued passengers and crew”.
Shortly after the announcement of the attempted crossing of the ten migrants, Madrid then decided to send a military ship to Lampedusa, to pick them up. “The Spanish Navy ship Audaz is ready to sail this afternoon to the island of Lampedusa and attend to the Open Arms and its occupants. It will accompany the boat to the port of Palma, in Mallorca,” said the Spanish President Pedro Sanchez on his Twitter account. “With this measure Spain will solve, this week, the humanitarian emergency.”
The military ship was to leave southern Spain at 1700 hours (1500 GMT) and “will sail for three days to Lampedusa where it will take charge of the people collected by the Open Arms,” the government said in a statement.
For his part, the French Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner spoke on the issue during a press conference relayed by BFMTV. For him, “the landings must be done as soon as possible” because “the people on board [the Open Arms] are vulnerable people”.
On Tuesday, August 20, the Minister of the Interior said that Paris will also host migrants aboard the Ocean Viking similarly to those of the Open Arms. For the latter, France has promised to support 40 people.
The migrants of the Open Arms that France has promised to host have not yet reached the territory but the executive is already making other promises.
“We are committed to the Open Arms, we are committed to the same level on the Ocean Viking, to ensure that we can land the people who are on these boats as quickly as possible,” said the tenant of the Place Beauvau at a press conference in Biarritz, before the G7 to be held from August 24 to 26.
His commitment will “let France take full responsibility,” according to Christophe Castaner. “The waiting for ships (…) can not last. This wait is unbearable,” he added. “The people on board are vulnerable people, who must be landed as quickly as possible in the closest and safest ports.”
However, the assurance that Paris will support “the same level” of migrants from the Ocean Viking does not mean that 40 people will be welcomed, but that it will be done in a “proportional” way, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Since 160 migrants were aboard the Open Arms and Paris will accommodate 40, the Place Beauvau suggests, about the Ocean Viking and 356 people on board, that the Macron administration will take many more.
In addition, on the evening of Tuesday 20 August, the 83 migrants still on board the Open Arms landed on the Italian island.
The situation aboard the Spanish NGO migrant rescue ship Open Arms is “explosive”, the Agrigento chief prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio said on Tuesday adding that he was travelling to Lampedusa by helicopter to monitor the situation and “restore calm so that no one gets hurt”.
“The commitment and attention are maximum to ensure the safety of the persons on board,” he said. Patronaggio took a team of medics with him, sources said.
There are now 88 migrants aboard the Open Arms.