June 13 (UPI) — An Italian coast guard ship carrying more than 900 Libyan migrants docked in Sicily Wednesday, just barely after the Rome government rejected entry to a boatload of others.
The vessel Diciotti had picked up migrants off the coast of Libya and was allowed at Sicily because it was an Italian ship on a government mission.
At least 937 migrants made it to Sicily, along with the bodies of a woman and a teenage boy who died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. More than 200 on board were minors.
This week, Italian and Maltese officials denied entry for the Aquarius, a ship carrying more than 600 Libyan migrants. Spain finally granted the boat permission to dock in Valencia.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini opposed taking in the refugees and said Malta should accept them. Salvini’s refusal drew heavy criticism from French President Emmanuel Macron.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hit back, calling Macron’s stance on migrants “hypocritical.”
“I’m glad the French have discovered responsibility. If they want, we will help them. Let them open their ports and we will transfer a few of the people to France,” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said.
Italy recalled its French ambassador after Macron’s comments. In a speech Wednesday, Salvini demanded an apology from the French leader — challenging Paris to take in migrants it promised to bring in under a European Union agreement.
The Aquarius remains at sea south of Sicily, and will land in Valencia around Saturday, Doctors Without Borders said.