UN, church officials press Italy to let migrants disembark

UN, church officials press Italy to let migrants disembark
An Italian Coast Guard patroller flanks the Sea-Watch rescue ship off the Sicilian coast where it found shelter, about one nautical mile from Siracusa, from gale winds sweeping the Sicilian Channel, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. The Sea-Watch is carrying 47 people saved from the sea. Italian Interior minister Salvini yesterday tweeted that the government is "ready to send food, medicine and whatever may be needed, but Italy's ports are and will remain closed". (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)

ROME (AP) — U.N. agencies dealing with refugees and children are pressing Italy to allow 47 migrants, rescued at sea a week ago, to disembark.

Three U.N. agencies said in a joint statement Europe’s “boat-by-boat” approach to migrants must be replaced by a system for safe disembarking in the central Mediterranean.

Catholic Church officials also joined the call Saturday for Italy to allow the rescue boat Sea-Watch 3, now off Sicily’s coast, to have a safe port. The boat, operated by a German NGO, rescued the 47 off Libya on Jan. 19.

Fishermen, priests and ordinary citizens turned out for a solidarity rally near Syracuse, Sicily, where the boat could be seen from shore.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused to let private rescue boats disembark migrants, arguing they encourage human traffickers.