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50 migrants from the Diciotti ship 'disappear' in Italy

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50 migrants from the Diciotti ship 'disappear' in Italy

Fifty of the 144 migrants on the Diciotti have 'disappeared'
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Reuters
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Fifty of the 144 migrants that were stranded on a coastguard ship off the coast of Sicily last month have supposedly vanished from Italian reception centres in Italy.

The news comes from far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who said the "disappearance" of the migrants is another piece of evidence that they do not need their help.

Salvini said on Facebook: The migrants "were so in need of protection, a roof and a blanket that they decided to leave and disappear."

"This is the umpteenth confirmation that those who arrive in Italy are not skeletons fleeing war and famine," he claimed, promising how he would "work even harder to change wrong laws and [aim for] zero arrivals."

Matteo Salvini reaffirms his anti-migrant commitment after 50 migrants vanish from welcome centres

However, some of the hosts say the migrants didn't vanish, that they left on their own accord, and with good reason.

"It is a voluntary departure, not an escape, one flees from a state of detention and this is not the case, nobody wants to stay in Italy, you know," director of Caritas Italiana, Francesco Soddu, told ANSA.

For many years, the trend has been that migrants head towards northern Europe to reunite with friends, family and where they would have more opportunities.

The Diciotti migrants, mainly from Eritrea, were picked up by a coastguard ship on August 15 and were stranded at sea for 10 days as Salvini refused to allow the vessel to dock in the Sicilian port of Catania. Throughout the week, batches of migrants were allowed off the ship, starting from unaccompanied minors to the severely sick. Salvini did not relent until other members of the bloc agreed to take some of the migrants and even threatened to cut funds to the EU if his demands were not met. In the end, Ireland, Albania and the Italian Catholic church heeded that call and agreed to take most of the migrants in.

Diciotti standoff

Salvini's refusal to permit the migrants to disembark the Diciotti were met with demonstrations by locals who called on the government to show some compassion. A protest, spearheaded by local artists, involved the beloved Sicilian snack - arancini - whereby demonstrators showed up with the deep-fried rice ball filled with ragu sauce and cheese. The local snack was seen as a symbol of hospitality and goodwill toward the stranded migrants.

By not allowing the migrants off the boat also presented a slew of legal complexities. In the midst of the standoff, prosecutors looked into launching an investigation claiming Salvini's action were akin to illegal detention and kidnapping. In response to this, Salvini challenged the police to arrest him.