Migrant rescue vessel heading for Sicily
ROME - An Italian Coast Guard vessel carrying scores of rescued migrants plucked from the Mediterreanean was heading for the Sicilian port of Trapani Wednesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe's cabinet overruled a wild attempt by xenophobic Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to prevent the vessel from docking at an Italian port, officials said.
The Vos Thalassa, an Italian oil industry tugboat, had rescued 66 people from a shipwreck off the Libyan (cq) coast. The 66 were transferred to the Italian Coast Guard vessel, the Diciotti, which hoped to harbour in an Italian port.
The Diciotti rescue boat went to the aid of the Vos Thalassa, because they had put out a distress signal in the early hours of Tuesday morning, indicating that the crew was in “serious danger”. Although the oil tugboat was technically inside the Libyan rescue zone, the transferral of the rescued persons onto the Diciotti was authorized by the general command of the port authorities.
“The Italian Coast Guard cannot step in where it is Libyan responsibility, particularly when our African colleagues are already on the way to the rescue” said Salvini, as he did not authorize the rescue by the Diciotti.
The Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Danilo Toninelli, tweeted “I’m proud of the Italian @GuardiaCostiera which took on board the 60 migrants who were putting in danger the lives of the Vos Thalassa crew. Now comes the investigation to punish the troublemakers,” as the Diciotti has been now been allowed to harbour in Italy on grounds of carrying out this investigation.
The claim that the rescued people on board “endangered the lives of the crew of Vos Thalassa,” according to Toninelli, is the reason for this investigation into the "troublemakers". Nothing is clear yet since both crews are still at sea.
Throughout Tuesday night, the Diciotti continued to sail north, waiting from instruction from the Italian Ministry. Receiving no indication about which port they could land, the vessel has now turned around and is "heading towards Trapani" where it was due to arrive on Wednesday afternoon, officials from the ministry of transport and infrastructure said.
On the one hand there is Salvini saying: "I will not give authorisation for the Diciotti to land until I receive the guarantee that the criminals on board will be sent straight to prison." On the other, Luigi Di Maio said in his Omnibus interview on Wednesday that "it is unimaginable to turn away an Italian vessel."
Before the E.U. Innsbruck summit which starts on Thursday, the Italian government will have to establish a "common line", seeing as the talks will tackle the issue of migration, and the management of migratory flows across E.U. member states, government sources said.
The Interior Minister has stated that his priorities are to "defend the safety of Italian citizens and to bring to the centre of the talks the fact that Italy cannot be left alone in this crisis."
Meanwhile Conte, was in Brussels on Wedneday morning for the NATO summit.
Speaking with journalists, he said: "we are going to this NATO meeting to reaffirm our loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance. we are here to take note of the steps taken to extend the Alliance to the East, but we are also here to defend the interests of Italians and to reinforce the Southern border. In particular, the ports of Naples, as it is a very important sea passage which is particularly vulnerable to the arrival of foreign fighters."