Tue, 22 Oct 2019

PARIS - Italy has agreed to allow rescue ship Ocean Viking to disembark 82 migrants in the southern port of Lampedusa, the SOS Mediterranee charity which runs the vessel said Saturday.

"The Ocean Viking just received instructions from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Rome to proceed to Lampedusa," SOS Mediterranee tweeted.

"An ad hoc European agreement between Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and Luxembourg has been reached to allow the landing," said French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, referring to the division of the migrants between the five countries.

"We now need to agree on a genuine temporary European mechanism." Castaner added.

The Ocean Viking was on its second mission and was shuttling between Malta and Italy for nearly two weeks, seeking a port to land the migrants.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which runs the ship jointly with SOS Mediterranee, said the group comprised 58 men, six women and 18 children.

The Ocean Viking had rescued 356 migrants on its first mission.

Italy is trying to set up an automatic system for distributing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean between European countries, diplomatic sources said recently.

Such a deal would put an end to the case-by-case negotiations over who will take in those saved during the perilous crossing from North Africa, which has seen vulnerable asylum seekers trapped in limbo at sea for lengthy periods.

France and Germany have given their green light to the new system, which could also involve Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Spain, Italy's Repubblica and Stampa dailies said.

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