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Europe

Italy’s Salvini gives grudging OK for minors to disembark rescue ship

media Spanish migrant rescue ship Open Arms lies anchored close to the Italian shore, as people relax on the beach in Lampedusa, Italy August 17, 2019 REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has reluctantly given the green light for minors to disembark a rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean after a two-week standoff. 

The hardline interior minister was finally persuaded to allow minors to leave the Open Arms after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote a second, three-page letter to him, demanding they be allowed ashore.

Salvini responded by letter on Saturday, saying the decision was Conte’s, not his, and that despite it being "divergent to my orientation", the prime minister could authorise it. 

The ship had been stuck off the coast of Lampedusa with 134 people aboard. The Spanish aid organisation that operates it, Proactiva Open Arms, said it could not guarantee the safety of people due to mounting tensions.

“We cannot be responsible nor guarantee the security of the people on board Open Arms," Camps told European decision-makers.

Open Arms rescued the 134 in waters near Libya two weeks ago, and had been waiting for the green light from Italy. Salvini had previously banned rescue vessels from entering into Italian territorial waters.

 Open Arms won a legal battle allowing them to dock after Spain and five other EU countries said they would take the immigrants.

The organisation had filed suit in Sicily during the standoff, saying that not only were the migrants being held hostage, but the crew as well.

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