ROME - After spending close to two weeks at sea because no country would allow them to disembark, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said 47 migrants on the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3 finally would come off that vessel. Europe had been arguing over the fate of the migrants and Italy agreed to let them disembark only after a half-dozen countries came forward to take them in.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ended the latest migrant standoff on Wednesday, announcing the 47 migrants would soon disembark. The migrants had been stuck on the vessel since their rescue off the coast of Libya January 19.
The Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel has been moored off southern Sicily since Friday.
Europe has been struggling with how to deal with the migrants’ respective arrivals since Italy’s populist government, which came to power last March, announced it would close its ports to humanitarian vessels.
It was the second time in a month the Sea-Watch 3 had been stranded at sea with rescued migrants and no safe port that would allow it to dock.
Speaking in Milan on Wednesday, Prime Minister Conte said Luxembourg came forward as the latest country to answer Italy's request for assistance.
The prime minister added that Luxembourg joined Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta in agreeing to take some of the migrants from the Sea-Watch 3 ship operated by a German aid group. The migrants are expected to disembark in the coming hours.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said, “Mission accomplished! Once again thanks to the commitment of the Italian government and the determination of our Interior Ministry, Europe has been forced to intervene and take on its responsibilities.” Salvini added, “On the basis of the documentation gathered, an investigation should be opened to shed light on the conduct of the NGO.”
Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Germany has agreed to accept some of the migrants, declaring it is clear “a common and lasting solution is needed in Europe” to the issue.
The U.N. refugee agency says on average, six people a day lost their lives attempting to reach Europe by way of the Mediterranean last year.