After a six-day standoff with the European neighbors, Italy allowed the remaining 134 migrants, who were stranded on an Italian coastguard vessel, to disembark.
Italy Threatens to Send Stranded Migrants 'Back to Libya'
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, made an urgent plea to the European States to “do the right thing” and offer asylum to some of the migrants who were "rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in their time of need. The time has come to end the back-and-forth that has seen countries competing in a race to the bottom on who can take the least responsibility for people rescued at sea."
Several Italian churches will reportedly take in the majority of the migrants, while Albania offered to take 20 migrants and Ireland another 20-25.
"It is dangerous and immoral to put the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers at risk while States engage in a political tug-of-war on long-term solutions," the commissioner added.
Italy's far-right Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini initially refused, as he has before, to let the migrants disembark until he was assured by other European nations that they would receive some of the migrants.
As a result of the latest refusal, Salvini is now under investigation for "illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power" for his role in the detention of the migrants. European Union rules state that people must seek asylum in the location they arrive.
“...they can investigate me, they can arrest me. But they can't arrest the desire, for change, of 60 million Italians. The next ship can turn around and go back where it came from because our limit has been reached,” Salvini said.
The Diciotti vessel originally picked up 190 people on August 15 in the Mediterranean Sea. The minister allowed more than two dozen unaccompanied minors to leave the vessel as well as the evacuation of several others for emergency medical treatment.
The majority of the migrants on the Diciotti are from Eritrea, according to the BBC.
Hundreds of thousands of people have arrived in Italy since 2013, fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. But the overall migrant arrivals in Italy have dropped about 80% to 19,500 compared to 98,000 in the same period last year, the interior ministry said.