Rights group urges Italy to let rescued migrant minors land

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
ROME
Published 28.01.2019 00:25

Save the Children appealed to Italy to allow minors rescued in the Mediterranean to land, amid the latest diplomatic row over the fate of migrants saved at sea. "These young people have already suffered enough violence and abuse during their journey to Italy and are particularly vulnerable," Raffaela Milano, director of the Italian arm of Save the Children, said in a statement.

She called for an "immediate" response to the call by Catania prosecutors to allow the minors on board the Dutch-flagged rescue ship Sea Watch 3, currently sheltering from bad weather off Sicily, to be disembarked. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said there were 13 unaccompanied minors, and the situation was "critical."

But far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini repeated his refusal to take in the migrants, saying the minors were nearly 18 years old and not children. "I will not change my mind. Italy's ports are closed and will remain closed to people traffickers and their accomplices," he said. "For three days we have faced storms, strong winds and heavy rain," a doctor on board told ANSA news agency. The migrants "are wet because there is not enough room under cover. They have no room to rest," she said, adding that many of them had scars from violence inflicted on them in Libya.

The mayor of Syracuse, Francesco Italia, has said he would welcome those rescued and some inhabitants in the Sicilian coastal city on Saturday hung white sheets from their balconies, with the message "let them disembark." Dozens of residents gathered for a sit-in on the beach, where the ship could be seen a mile out. "Let us offer a welcome and a smile to those who, so near, are still too far off," a joint statement signed by local associations and trade unions read.

Milano warned that "every extra minute spent on the ship... is likely to leave indelible marks that these youngsters will carry with them for the rest of their lives." "Lives and human dignity can never be a price to be paid on the chessboard of international politics," she said.

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