In a gracious gesture and evident reversal of the hardline policy under the country's ex-interior minister Matteo Salvini, Italy has agreed to allow rescue ship Ocean Viking to disembark 82 migrants on Lampedusa, AFP reported on Saturday, September 14th.
Regardless of the six days that took Rome to arrive at a decision and the European guarantees to redistribute the migrants before the country approves the docking, the action has marked the first time in 14 months that Italy has openly offered a migrant rescue ship a safe port.
This comes after the far-right leader Salvini was forced out of office last month. The new coalition has been trying to forge its own migrant stance ever since.
SOS Mediterranee, which operates the vessel, tweeted earlier that it has received instructions from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Rome to proceed to Lampedusa. Both France and Germany have agreed to take 25% of the migrants each, with Italy to take 10%.
Later on, Italian media reports have included that the Italian coastguard would send a vessel to pick up the migrants at sea in order not to disturb port operations.
Nicola Stalla, search and rescue coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking, expressed optimistically that following disembarkation, the Ocean Viking should head back to her search and rescue mission.
Under far-right leader Salvini, charity vessels with rescued migrants on board faced fines of up to a million euros as well as the arrest of the captain and impounding of the boat.
According to diplomatic sources, Italy has been trying to set up an automatic system for distributing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean between European countries, citing that such a deal would put an end to the case-by-case negotiations over who will take in those saved during the perilous crossing from North Africa.
France and Germany have reportedly given their green light to the new system, which could also involve Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Spain.