Some 140 migrants trapped on an Italian coast guard boat for nearly a week were allowed to disembark Sunday after Ireland and Albania agreed to take in some of them.
The boat docked Monday at Catania in Sicily with about 180 migrants on board.Italy allowed 27 unaccompanied minors to disembark during the week, and on Saturday 12 women and men were also allowed to leave the boat for medical reasons.
But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let the rest disembark unless other EU countries agreed to take some of them in.
In the process, Rome also threatened to withhold EU funding.
Salvini’s intransigence prompted Stefano Vella, the head of Italy’s Medical Agency (AIFA), to resign in protest over the government’s hard-line policy.
“As a doctor, I cannot tolerate to lead a public health body at a time when people are treated in this way on our territory,” Vella said in an statement put out by the Italian news agency, ANSA.
But a deal was finally brokered by the Catholic Church.
The church will take in most of the migrants but Albania, which is not an EU country, will take in 20, as will Ireland.