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Italy's Salvini lets 27 teenagers off Open Arms migrant ship - BBC News


Posted: Tue-Feb-2020



The interior minister backs down reluctantly over the migrant minors amid a row within his cabinet.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has agreed to let 27 unaccompanied teenagers leave a migrant rescue ship amid a row between the far-right leader and his fellow ministers.

The minors were allowed to disembark on the Italian island of Lampedusa after more than sixteen days at sea.

More than 100 migrants remain on board the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had called Mr Salvini "obsessed" with keeping migrants out of Italian ports.

Two ministers on Friday also refused to sign off Mr Salvini's orders banning the Open Arms ship from docking in Lampedusa.

In a letter on Saturday, Mr Salvini reluctantly told the prime minister he could allow the "alleged" minors off the vessel, before pointing out it was "contrary to my policy".

"Evacuation of unaccompanied minors completed," Open Arms tweeted. "Many tears. They've left friends and travel companions," it added.

The charity said the remaining adults and two accompanied children on the boat were living in "untenable" conditions.

The tiny isle of Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing violence and poverty.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 100 migrants remain on board the ship

The standoff comes amid a political crisis between Mr Salvini and Five Star, the coalition partner of his League party.

Last week Mr Salvini, who is also a deputy prime minister and has boosted his popularity through anti-immigration policies, announced that the alliance was over and Italy should hold fresh elections.

But anti-establishment Five Star and the opposition centre-left PD have stalled any debate on Mr Salvini's no-confidence motion, throwing doubt on his ability to engineer a snap election.

Mr Salvini's League is leading in the opinion polls, having overtaken Five Star, but a coalition between Five Star and the PD is looking increasingly possible.

Five Star and the League have been bickering for months over a range of issues, including taxation and the financing of a high-speed rail project, involving a tunnel through the Alps.

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