No fewer than 150 migrants who were not being allowed to disembark from an Italian coastguard boat in Sicily have started a hunger strike, an opposition senator said Friday.
“I have just heard from the Port Authority that there is tension aboard the #Diciotti ship and that migrants have started a hunger strike,” Davide Faraone of the Democratic Party wrote on Twitter.
“As a result, visits aboard to express solidarity and verify conditions on the boat have been suspended for security reasons,” he added.
One hundred and ninety migrants were rescued more than a week ago by the Diciotti on Monday.
Thirteen needing medical assistance were taken onshore while the remaining 177 were taken to Catania.
Under pressure from humanitarian groups, Italy’s hardline Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini let 27 children disembark on Wednesday.
He said however that the remaining migrants would be kept aboard until other European Union nations take them in.
It is the latest in a series of diplomatic spats over boats picking up migrants trying to reach European shores from northern Africa.
The solution to the Diciotti situation “is a nice plane arriving in Catania airport from one of the European capitals” to pick up the migrants, Salvini told Corriere della Sera daily.
A meeting was due to take place in Brussels on Friday among negotiators from 12 member states, with the aim of finding a long-term solution to the migrant rescue problem.
An EU spokesman declined on Thursday to name which countries are participating, but said the meeting is open to anyone “interested in a European solution.”
Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio said Thursday that if “nothing comes out” of the Brussels talks, Italy should block payments into the EU budget.