German aid group: 89 migrants allowed to disembark in Italy

A German humanitarian group said its ship docked in southern Italy early Tuesday and disembarked 89 people rescued at sea, ending one migrant rescue saga as others continue under Italy’s new hard-right government.

Mission Lifeline posted videos on social media of the 25-meter (80-foot) Rise Above freighter docking in Reggio Calabria and said the “odyssey of 89 passengers and nine crew members on board seems to be over.” In a subsequent post it said all 89 were allowed to disembark.

The group had waited at sea for days for Italy to assign it a port after it entered Italian waters over the weekend without consent because of rough seas. Six of the original 95 people were evacuated at sea for medical reasons.

Italy has refused to assign migrant rescue ships with a port of safety as the new far-right-led government of Premier Giorgia Meloni takes a hard line with nongovernmental organizations operating in the central Mediterranean. Instead, it has been instructing them to ports, where authorities allow only vulnerable people to disembark.

Italian authorities insist the boats must then return to international waters with those not deemed vulnerable and that the countries whose flag the ships fly take the migrants in.

Two NGO-run boats are docked in Catania, in Sicily, one with 35 people that Italy won’t allow to disembark, the other with 214 people. Both ships are refusing to leave, saying that under international law all people rescued at sea are vulnerable and entitled to a safe port.

A fourth ship, the Ocean Viking operated by SOS Mediterranee, remains in international waters off Sicily with 234 rescued people. Its first rescue was 17 days ago.

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