Europe’s latest migrant standoff came to a conclusion Thursday as 47 migrants kept at sea for nearly two weeks while Italy pressured European countries to take them in finally disembarked from their rescue ship in Sicily.
The Sea-Watch 3, operated by the German aid group Sea Watch, pulled into Catania’s port and the migrants, who were rescued off Libya on Jan. 19, were taken ashore to be identified and processed. Wearing aqua colored scarves to stave off the cold, some of the migrants waved good-bye to the crew as they walked down to police and Red Cross workers waiting on shore.
“We wish them all the best. We hope Europe will welcome them and let them live as they deserve,” Sea Watch Italy tweeted.
Premier Giuseppe Conte announced a breakthrough in the standoff earlier this week, saying a half-dozen European countries had agreed to take in the migrants so Italy didn’t have to shoulder the burden alone. The countries he identified were Germany, France, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Romania, as well as Italy.
Italy’s populist government has refused to allow humanitarian ships to dock in a bid to dissuade them from conducting rescues, and to force other countries to take asylum-seekers. The Sea-Watch case was just the latest in a series of standoffs that have kept migrants at sea for days and weeks at a time while Europe scrambles to determine their fate.