Italy allows 29 unaccompanied minors held on the coastguard ship Diciotti to disembark

Italy allows 29 unaccompanied minors held on the coastguard ship Diciotti to disembark
By Katy Dartford
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The fate of the remaining 148 asylum seekers is still uncertain. Prosecutors say “they require urgent medical assistance.... the situation onboard is critical.”


Twenty-nine unaccompanied minors have been allowed to disembark from a coastguard ship that's been docked in the Sicilian port of Catania since Monday.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been resisting pressure to let the 177 migrants off the Diciotti until other European countries agree to take them in.

But he announced on Facebook that the young people could come ashore.

The migrants were rescued from an overcrowded boat a week ago following a row with Malta.

Rome insisted that Malta should take the group because the boat first passed through its search-and-rescue area, but Valletta refused, claiming the people wanted to reach Italy.

Salvini then demanded sanctions be imposed on the island.

He said other European countries needed to take in the migrants or he would return them to Libya.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, on Wednesday took to Facebook to back up Salvini:

“What are they waiting for to intervene so that we can redistribute the migrants?” 

Conte said Italy was “waiting for a strong and clear answer from the European institutions and an adequate response from the other European countries”.

The release of the 29 young people on Wednesday night follows pressure from Italian prosecutors who have opened an investigation into the illegal detention of 177 migrants.

The probe, conducted by the prosecutor of the city of Agrigento, was launched against “unknowns” but if magistrates go ahead with a judicial proceeding, Salvini would end up under investigation, being the only one responsible for the landing ban.

On Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors in Agrigento visited the ship and questioned the captain and several migrants.

“There are migrants onboard clearly affected by scabies,” said chief prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio. “They require urgent medical assistance. The situation onboard is critical.”

Salvini announced on Facebook that the 29 unaccompanied minors aboard the ship could disembark, but not the others.

He accused other European countries of a “cowardly silence” over what to do with the migrants and said Brussels was “sleeping”.

“If Europe doesn’t play its part, as far as I’m concerned the boats can go back to where they came from,” he said.

Salvini has repeatedly said Italy “will no longer be Europe’s refugee camp.”


Euronews Brussels correspondent Elena Cavallone explains what's next for the 29 minors and the remaining people on the Diciotti.

You can watch her report in the video above.

Journalist • Katy Dartford

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