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Migrants go on board a rescue vessel in Italy after a 19-day stalemate



A migrant rescue vessel with more than 80 people was evacuated on Tuesday near Italy's southernmost island. This ended a 19-day stalemate, which caused 15 passengers to jump into the sea to escape the worsening conditions on board.

The Sicilian Prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio ordered the seizure and immediate evacuation of the ship from the island of Lampedusa. The prosecutor boarded the ship and met with the port authorities to investigate possible abduction costs resulting from the refusal of the hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to allow the migrants to disembark.

on the Spanish-flagged Open Arms ship since they were picked up from the Mediterranean nearly three weeks ago.

  Migrants on the rescue vessel Open Arms preparing to disembark on Tuesday on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

Migrants on the Open Arms rescue ship prepares to disembark on the Sicilian island Lampedusa on Tuesday.
(AP)

Salvini had refused to open Italian ports to the ship, despite the fact that six countries had come forward to take in the migrants.

The group landed about an hour after the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who accused Salvini of sacrificing the country's 14-month-old populist government out of an effort to take over the top post himself.

The captain of Prior told Open Arms Italian officials that the 17-man crew were no longer able to stay in control and described the situation as "desperate." After a Syrian citizen jumped and was rescued and landed in Lampedusa, two other groups followed his lead. A ferry crew landed them and saved them from returning to the ship.

Dozens of others have been evacuated in recent days for medical reasons or because they are minors. Officials said the tension on board was high and fighting broke out among the migrants.

The Italian Prime Minister demands a temporary seizure of the rescue vessel by the prosecution "Open Arms will cover these costs to ensure that the people on board can be supported," said Spanish NGO founder Oscar Camps on Twitter.

"We consider it essential to prioritize their health and safety in this humanitarian emergency." he wrote .

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Spain said it would take three days for its naval vessel, the Audaz, Lampedusa, to reach Spain from Rota Port, and it was not immediately clear how long it would take to escort the Open Arms to the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Emilio Damiá Marqués, the commander of the Audaz, told the Spanish public service broadcaster TVE of Rota that his ship was 62 years old. It was expected that people, including a doctor, would arrive on the Italian island on Friday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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