A Post-Salvini Italy Reverses Course; Welcomes Migrants From NGO Rescue Boat

Following the ouster of right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini, Italy's new left-leaning government has walked back the country's hard-line immigration policies when it comes to migrants rescued by NGO vessels in the Mediterranean - many off the coast of Libya.

On Saturday, the new coalition government between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) granted a request for the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking operated by French NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to allow 82 migrants to disembark for 'safe haven,' according to The Guardian

The decision follows a negotiated agreement with the European commission, which received the request to manage the situation and find a solution among member states. 

"Italian authorities have offered to the Ocean Viking a safe port to disembark," tweeted the charities, adding "MSF and SOS Méditerranée are relieved." 

Italy’s new government, which won a vote of confidence in the senate on Tuesday – the final step needed to exercise its full powers – intends to draw a line under a crisis sparked by Salvini, the far-right leader of the League.

Giuseppe Conte, on his second mandate as prime minister, had promised to revise the previous government’s anti-immigration policies, which provide for the closure of seaports to rescue vessels carrying migrants, the seizure of NGO boats and fines for ships that bring asylum seekers to Italy without permission.

NGO rescue vessels have been stranded at sea up to 20 days over the last 14 months because of the Salvini’s measures. There have been 25 standoffs between rescue vessels and Italian authorities since Salvini took office as interior minister in June 2018, according to the Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi). -The Guardian

NGO ships, meanwhile, have violated Italy's rules on several occasions - docking without permission so that their passengers could disembark and receive food and medical care. Nearly each time, the NGOs were either temporarily impounded and/or heavily fined

In June, Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete was arrested after forcing her way into Lampedusa with 40 migrants - nearly ramming a navy vessel which attempted to block the ship. She has since been released. 

According to the report, Germany and France may take in 50% of the migrants onboard the Ocean Viking, split evenly between them. The remainder will be taken in by Italy and other EU states. 

On Wedensday, European council president donald Tusk and Conte met to discuss the matter, after which Conte said that EU member states which refuse to take on migrants should face financial penalties

"Those who do not participate in the redistribution of migrants at the European level will feel the impact in a significant way in financial terms," he said. 

Salvini, meanwhile, tweeted "The new government has opened again its seaports to migrants," adding "The new ministers must hate our country. Italy is back to being Europe’s refugee camp."