The Italian bishops’ conference will accept the majority of African migrants who have spent 10 days stranded on a coast guard ship in a Sicilian port.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Saturday that the bishops’ conference would take 100 migrants. Albania and Ireland will also accept 20 migrants each.
A total of 190 migrants, primarily from Eritrea, had been found stranded at sea and rescued by the Italian Coast guard on August 16. The ship arrived to the Sicilian port of Catania on August 20.
The migrants were not allowed to disembark, however, except for 50 who were given permission to leave due to health reasons.
The BBC reported that Interior Minister Matteo Salvini would not grant the vessel permission to disembark until there was a plan to distribute the migrants among other EU countries, so as not to be a “burden” to Italian citizens.
An inquiry was opened by Sicilian prosecutors to investigate possible illegal confinement by Salvini, as concerns were raised about the health effects of confinement on the migrants onboard.
Pope Francis discussed the stranded migrants during his in-flight press conference from Dublin to Rome on August 26.
“The welcoming of migrants is something as old as the bible. It’s in Deuteronomy, in the Commandments. God commands welcoming the migrant, the foreigner. It’s so old that it is in the spirit of revelation but also in the spirit of Christianity. It’s a moral principle,” he said.
The plan to resettle the Eritrean immigrants was handled by the Italian bishop’ conference and Fr. Aldo Bonaiuto, a member of the Association Giovanni XXIII, the pope said, adding that he had not been personally involved in the arrangement.
He said the immigrants are “going to a better world at Rocca di Papa,” an Italian town near Rome. “They will be welcomed there,” he added.
Pope Francis decried the consequences of sending refugees back to the countries from which they are trying to escape.
“They are taken by the traffickers. Painful, the things that they do to the men... the women and the children, out! They sell them.”
A “reasonable welcoming” of migrants, he said, must include the proper means of integration, such as aid to learn the country’s language and find work.
The Holy Father pointed to a recent encounter with a migrant woman who been among the 13 refugees from Syria he had taken from the Island of Lesbos to Rome in 2016. He said she is now studying at the university level and an example of integration.
“This is the work with migrants. There is an openness of heart for everyone, suffering, then integration as a condition for welcoming and then the prudence of those who govern for doing this,” he said.