Italy Lets Migrants Off Stranded Boat as Deal Reached

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Nearly 140 migrants who had been stranded on a boat at a port in Sicily were allowed to disembark early on Sunday after Ireland and Albania agreed to take some of them in.

The boat had docked at Catania port on Monday but Italy had refused to let those on board disembark in absence of any EU commitment to relocate them, prompting a new bitter row between Rome and Brussels.

But following a deal brokered by the Catholic Church late on Saturday, Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini agreed to allow them to leave the Diciotti, the Italian coastguard ship which had rescued them some 10 days ago.

There were initially around 180 on board the boat when it arrived at the port in Sicily on Monday, but Rome allowed 27 unaccompanied minors to disembark on Wednesday and a dozen women and men left the boat Saturday following a request from health authorities, AFP reported.

The move to let the remaining migrants off the boat came several hours after Sicilian prosecutors reportedly said they had opened an inquiry into Salvini for "illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power" over his refusal to allow the migrants to disembark.

On Friday, Italy's populist government threatened to pull funding for the European Union unless it agreed to take in some of those on board the Diciotti, prompting a sharp retort from Brussels which said it would not be cowed by threats.

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