Migrants jump off rescue boat to try to reach Italian island

The Open Arms is insisting that it needs to dock in the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is just 800 meters away from its current location. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini says the ships have become "taxis" for people smugglers.

Open Arms said on Monday that disembarking in Mallorca would add another three days what has been a trying situation.

An Open Arms spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that the boat still had not answered Spain's proposal. Articles appear on euronews.com for a limited time.

The migrants will be shared out among France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg, Conte said in an open letter to Salvini in which he accused the minister of disloyalty and being "obsessed" with closing Italy's ports to migrants.

Open Arms president Roberto Gatti, said it would take the ship seven days to reach the port and it was unlikely that it would be able to travel that far, given the current conditions on board.

Open Arms chief Oscar Camps warned Saturday that the group couldn't guarantee the safety of the migrants anymore, as tensions were rising and fights breaking out. Members of the rescue crew swam after them and were able to return them to the boat.

A coast guard boat is seen patrolling near the Spanish migrant rescue ship Open Arms, close to the Italian shore in Lampedusa, Italy August 15, 2019. He warned European leaders that as of Saturday "we can not be responsible nor guarantee the security of the people on board Open Arms".

Seeking to break the stand-off between Open Arms and Mr Salvini, Spain on Sunday offered its southern port of Algeciras to Open Arms for disembarking, while acknowledging that the destination is far and not suitable for disembarking.

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The vessel, which is operated by Spanish aid organization Proactiva Open Arms, was expected to dock in Italy on Thursday evening after that country's prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced an offer of assistance.

After the incident, Proactiva Open Arms sent the port of Lampedusa an urgent request to dock, together with an account of what had happened in the morning, and a report signed by psychologist Alessandro di Benedetti of the NGO Emergency, which argued the migrants were suffering from "extreme vulnerability, both physical and psychological, made worse by the uncertainty and level of stress on the ship".

"Whoever hangs tough wins", Salvini said.

But a spokeswoman for the Spanish NGO, Laura Lanuza, said undertaking such a long voyage to Spain would be "crazy".

Spain's left-wing government offered on Monday to allow the ship to land in a Spanish port, and it and five other European Union nations have offered to take the migrants. "We can't put their health and lives at risk".

The sources said they had not yet received an answer from the charity.

On Tuesday, Conte addresses the Senate, where Salvini's party has submitted a no-confidence vote against him, even though the League is the 14-month-old, government's junior coalition partner.

  • Sonia Alvarado