Migrants jump off rescue boat to try to reach Italian island

Several migrants jumped into the sea from a Spanish rescue boat Sunday in a thwarted bid to reach shore in Italy, where the government’s hard-line interior minister has refused to let the 107 passengers disembark.
“We have been warning for days, desperation has its limits,” said Open Arms founder Oscar Camps, who released a video showing four migrants wearing orange life vests swimming toward Lampedusa island. Crew members from the humanitarian group’s ship swam quickly toward them so they could be brought back aboard. In the evening, Open Arms said it had urgently requested permission to enter Lampedusa’s port so the migrants, aboard for 17 days, could finally get off. It said their psychological and physical conditions are “at risk.”
“If the worst happens, Europe and Salvini will be responsible,” the charity said in a tweet.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused docking permission because he contends charity rescue boats essentially facilitate the smuggling of migrants from the traffickers’ base in Libya. Salvini’s resolve has seen previous similar standoffs end with disembarkation either ultimately taking place in Italy or elsewhere in Europe.
On Sunday, Spain offered one of its ports for the migrants to come ashore, but Open Arms said it would be absurd to undertake a journey, that could take perhaps a week, with the migrants. For days, Open Arms has been anchored off Lampedusa, a fishing and vacation island between Sicily and northern Africa. The boat initially had 147 migrants aboard when it reached Italian waters. In the last few days, 40 migrants have transferred by Italian coast guard vessels to Lampedusa, including a few who were ailing and 27 believed to be minors. After the migrants who had jumped from the ship were back aboard, several female migrants wailed or pressed their hands to their head as if in disbelief. A few of the male migrants could be seen gesturing and shouting angrily, while crew members tried to calm tempers.–DT

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