20:14 GMT17 January 2021
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    ROME (Sputnik) – Almost 140 migrants, who had been stranded in the Mediterranean for days on board the Italian Coast Guard's Diciotti vessel, disembarked in the Sicilian port of Catania amid a probe into Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, local media reported.

    After the migrants left the vessel late on Saturday, they were transported to a center in Messina in Sicily, the Rai news broadcaster reported.

    On August 15, 177 migrants were rescued and taken aboard Diciotti in Maltese waters, however, Valetta rejected Rome’s request to allow it to disembark the rescued migrants in Malta.

    READ MORE: Madrid Suggests Aquarius Ship With Migrants Should Opt for Closer Port — Source

    The Italian authorities refused to let the migrants off the vessel, too. Salvini, the deputy prime minister, called for the settlement of the situation on the European level so that the migrants on board Diciotti would be accepted by the bloc’s member states on a quota basis.

    Earlier in the week, the Italian authorities allowed 27 unaccompanied minors to disembark, while late on Saturday, 13 sick people were also allowed to leave the vessel.

    On Saturday, Salvini said that Albania, Ireland and the Italian Episcopal Conference agreed to host the remaining 137 migrants.

    On the same day, the Italian prosecutors said they were probing one of the cabinet ministers. Media subsequently reported that the inquiry concerned Salvini, adding that it was related to the limitation of the rights of certain individuals in violation of the Italian constitution and criminal law.

    READ MORE: Salvini Rebuts Reports Italian Ship Illegally Returned Rescued Migrants to Libya

    The standoff around Diciotti prompted the European Commission to call an informal meeting of senior officials from 12 member states to discuss migration issues on Friday. The session, however, yielded no results.

    In his turn, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Rome was considering cutting its contributions to the EU long-term budget over Europe's failure to reach agreement on the migrant issue.

    Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, welcomed the Italian authorities’ decision to allow over 100 migrants disembark the Diciotti vessel in Sicily.

    The vessel was allowed to drop off 137 migrants in Sicily's Catania port late on Saturday after it had been stranded in the Mediterranean for days.

    "I welcome that a solution has been found and that all migrants have disembarked from the Diciotti — thanks to solidarity across borders and communities. But we cannot always wait for this type of goodwill solidarity. We need to have structural measures — starting from the EU," Avramopoulos wrote on Twitter.

    Over the recent weeks, the Italian new government, which has pledged to close the country’s borders for migrants, has denied several rescue vessels with hundreds of migrants on board permission to dock. Salvini has said Italy would close its ports to rescue ships run by NGOs in the Mediterranean.


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