More than 80 migrants are back on dry land after nearly 20 days at sea after Italy seized their Spanish charity rescue ship. One by one, the migrants walked down the gangplank of the Open Arms vessel and on to Italy’s Lampedusa island. Many were limping and some were bandaged.
The Open Arms rescue ship has been at sea for 19 days, spending much of that time anchored in the Mediterranean within sight of the Italian island. Italy's hard-line interior minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let the ship dock.
Some of the migrants — desperate and said to be suicidal amid the crowded and deteriorating conditions — began jumping into the sea to try to get to shore.
The Open Arms charity that sponsors the rescue ship said people were sleeping side by side on deck and forced to share just two toilets. An Italian prosecutor Tuesday ordered the government to take over the ship as part of what the Italian news agency ANSA said were possible kidnapping charges against Salvini because of his refusal to let the ship dock.
"Finally, the nightmare ends, and 83 people on board will receive immediate assistance on land," Open Arms said. The charity added that the Italian seizure of its ship is a price the charity has to pay to get the migrants the help they need. Spain is reportedly sending a navy ship to Lampedusa to help care for the migrants and escort them and the Open Arms vessel to the Spanish island of Mallorca.
Several European nations, including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania, have offered to accept the migrants.
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