Rome refuses to let migrants disembark - GulfToday

Rome refuses to let migrants disembark


Pope Francis greets from the window of his studio overlooking St Peter’s square at the Vatican on Sunday. Associated Press

An Italian coastguard vessel stranded in the Mediterranean with more than 130 migrants aboard has been allowed to dock in the eastern Sicilian port of Augusta but Rome on Sunday refused to let them disembark until a deal is struck with the EU.

“The Gregoretti berthed in the port of Augusta overnight, as is normal procedure for a military vessel. Now the EU has to act because the migration question concerns the whole continent,” Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in a statement.

Some 140 migrants, who had set off from Libya in two rickety boats, were picked up by Italian patrols on Thursday night and transferred to the Gregoretti ship.

The operation took place on the same day that at least 115 other migrants were believed to have drowned in a shipwreck off Libya -- the Mediterranean’s deadliest tragedy this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Several migrants aboard the Gregoretti have already been evacuated for medical attention, including a seven-month pregnant woman, her two children and her partner.

However, Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has reiterated that the remaining migrants would not be able to leave the vessel until other European countries agree to take them in.

Pope Francis on Sunday called on the international community to “act swiftly” to help avoid further deaths.

“I have learned with sorrow the news of the dramatic shipwreck that happened in recent days in the Mediterranean where dozens of migrants including women and children have lost their lives,” he said on Sunday during his weekly Angelus address on St Peter’s Square.

“I am renewing my call that the international community act swiftly and decisively to avoid that such tragedies repeat themselves and guarantee the safety and dignity of all.”

Pope also offered prayers for migrants who died in the Mediterranean Sea this week, in what the UN refugee agency called the worst shipwreck in the area this year.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square for his Sunday address, the pontiff expressed his sorrow and asked the worshippers to join him in a prayer for the dozens of migrants who died trying to reach Europe.


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