No fewer than eighty-two migrants have disembarked on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa after six days at sea.
Italy says it is allowing the ship, the Ocean Viking, to offload the migrants, as most of those on board will be relocated to other EU countries.The Ocean Viking carried 58 men, six women and 18 minors rescued off Libya’s coast.
The move signals a change of approach to migration from the new coalition which took office on Tuesday.
The migrants were transferred from the Ocean Viking to a coastguard vessel before being taken ashore, Italian TV pictures showed.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Italian television that “the safe port was assigned because the European Union agreed to our request to take most of the migrants”.
But this did not mark a return to a policy of open ports, he added.
“It must be clear that, even in the past with the previous government, our goal was to ensure that those migrants who arrived in Italy were redistributed to other European countries.”
In recent years Italy, like Greece, has struggled to cope with migrant boats sailing from North Africa or Turkey as people-smuggling gangs continue to make huge profits from African migrants desperate to reach Europe, as they flee war or poverty.
Libya is a major transit hub, but it is chaotic and violence is rife.
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