Migrants rest on board of NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue boat in the central Mediterranean Sea at the Italian port of Taranto, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina
ON BOARD THE OPEN ARMS (Reuters) – Migrants danced and burst into song as a rescue ship brought them into the Italian port of Taranto at dawn on Tuesday, days after they were found drifting in a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean.
The 62 mostly West and Central Africans packed up their bedding before coming ashore, celebrating the end of a political tussle over their fate – Italy had initially refused to take them and only relented at the weekend.
“Hopefully they can leave these terrible experiences they’ve lived behind and Europe will treat them with humanity,” said a spokeswoman for the Spanish charity Open Arms, which found the migrants 50 miles off Libya on Wednesday last week.
Italy said the charity’s ship Open Arms should drop the migrants off in Tripoli under international arrangements. But Rome changed its position after the coastguard evacuated 11 other members of the group, including young children and several injured.
The Italian government has taken a hard line against immigration and has previously resisted attempts by rescue ships to land migrants in its territory.
There have been nearly 1,000 confirmed deaths on the three main migration routes across the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Reporting by Juan Medina; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrew Heavens