One hundred migrants, most from Eritrea, arrived at a Catholic-run centre near Rome late on 28th August after officials from the Italian bishops’ conference negotiated their release from an Italian coast guard ship.
They had been on the ship, the Diciotti, for 11 days.
The Italian coast guard rescued some 180 migrants from an overcrowded boat at sea on 15th August, but Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow them to enter Italy.
Eventually 13 were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.
The boat docked in Catania, Italy, on 20th August and Salvini still refused to allow the migrants off the boat, insisting that other countries in the European Union had an obligation to share the burden of caring for them. Under intense international pressure, he allowed the 27 unaccompanied minors aboard to disembark on 22nd August.
Then late on 25th August, Salvini tweeted, ‘After so much hard work, insults, threats and inquiries, we finally have the solution for the ship Diciotti.’
Ireland and Albania each agreed to take 20 of the migrants; the Catholic Church in Italy offered to take the remaining 100.
Returning to Rome from Ireland on 26th August, Pope Francis said he was not involved in the negotiations, although he obviously had been regularly informed. He credited Fr Aldo Buonaiuto, who works with people rescued from human trafficking, and Fr Ivan Maffeis, one of the undersecretaries of the Italian bishops’ conference.
Picture: Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti at the port of Catania, Italy. One hundred migrants, most from Eritrea, arrived at a Catholic-run centre near Rome on 28th August after officials from the Italian bishops’ conference negotiated their release from the ship. (CNS photo/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters).