ROME – The chief prosecutor’s office in Agrigento, Italy, ordered the seizure of the Spanish humanitarian vessel Open Arms and the immediate disembarkation of the roughly 90 migrants who remain on board in the Sicilian port of Lampedusa.
Luigi Patronaggio, the chief prosecutor in Agrigento, the district in Sicily in which Lampedusa is located, made the decision after boarding the ship accompanied by several physicians to verify the health situation of the migrants, which the crew had described as desperate.
According to sources within the prosecutor’s office consulted by EFE, Patronaggio relied on Article 328 of the Penal Code in making his decision, that article setting forth punishment of between six months and two years behind bars for public officials who fail to perform their duty that “for legal or public safety reasons, or by public, hygiene of health order, should have been carried out without delay.”
The Open Arms will now have to remain for two weeks in Italy while an investigation is conducted.
The AG’s Office investigated a complaint of alleged kidnapping, not directed at anyone in particular, to determine why the migrants had not been able to disembark in Italy despite the fact that a court overturned the order of ultrarightist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stating that the boat would not be allowed to enter Italy’s territorial waters.
Patronaggio made an urgent helicopter flight to Lampedusa on Tuesday morning to deal with the serious situation that arose when about 15 migrants jumped overboard trying to swim to shore, a situation that he called “explosive.”
The Open Arms has been anchored for three days just a few meters offshore at the port of Lampedusa and on Tuesday the Spanish government ordered the dispatch of a military vessel to take the migrants on board and accompany the humanitarian ship to the Spanish port of Mallorca.
The captain of the Open Arms so far has refused to let the overcrowded ship sail under its own power to a Spanish port with the migrants, claiming safety concerns, a lack of facilities and the poor physical and psychiatric state of the migrants, as well as the exhaustion of his crew and the volunteers who have been helping through the lengthy crisis, now in its 19th day.
On Saturday, after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s intervention, Salvini reluctantly allowed 27 unaccompanied minors who had been on board since Aug. 1 to disembark.