Italy has finally agreed to welcome a group of illegal immigrants on its soil ending a four-day stand-off with neighbour Malta.
A first contingent of about 20 people out of 140 arrived early this morning on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. The group had spent four days in international waters onboard the Turkish vessel that rescued them last Thursday, as a diplomatic dispute unravelled between EU members Italy and Malta. All were said to be safe and sound. But the body of a pregnant woman was found at sea during the rescue operation. The row centred on the fact that the group was found drifting in a Maltese search and rescue area but that according to Malta the law requires them to be disembarked in the nearest port – which was Lampedusa. Italy’s foreign ministry said it took the decision “in consideration of the painful humanitarian emergency aboard the cargo ship” but added that it “must not be understood as a precedent”. Nearly 37,000 migrants landed in Italy last year – a 75 percent increase since 2007.