Italy’s new government allowed the French Ocean Viking vessel to bring ashore 82 migrants on Saturday, in what constitutes a policy U-turn.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the Ocean Viking was granted access to Lampedusa island because European states had agreed to share the migrants on board. The vessel belongs to non-governmental organisation Doctors Without Borders.
Germany’s Conservative Minister of Interior Horst Seehofer committed to taking one in four migrants reaching Italy by sea on Friday.
The EU is a major destination for migrants fleeing North and East Africa, as well as the Middle East and Central Asia. In a statement to Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday, Germany’s Interior Minister argued that a 25% share of those rescued at sea would not overwhelm the system.
Since 2015, European Union countries are seeking a workable solution for the distribution of new arrivals in a manner that is viable for Greece and Italy. Such a quota system has been resisted by eastern European countries. Next stop in this ongoing negotiation is a meeting between Home Affairs ministers in Malta on September 23.
The new Italian government formally took office on Tuesday, promising a policy change compared to the no-access clampdown championed by former interior minister Matteo Salvini, who imposed a million Euro fine to boats docking in Italy with migrants.
“The new government is reopening the ports,” Salvini Twitted on Saturday, accusing “abusive ministers” of hating Italians.