ROME — Many of the 150 migrants stranded aboard a coast guard ship for a ninth day began a hunger strike Friday out of frustration that Italy won’t let them disembark in Sicily unless fellow European Union nations first pledge to take them, authorities said, in the latest standoff provoked by Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister.

“They can do whatever they believe,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted, shrugging off the development that migrants were refusing meals aboard the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti. The ship rescued them on Aug. 16 from a foundering human trafficker’s boat in the central Mediterranean, and for days now has been docked in the port of Catania, Sicily.

An opposition lawmaker, Sen. Davide Faraone said that Catania port officials told him Friday “there’s tension” on the ship and that migrants have stopped eating.

Thirteen young children and ailing adults were evacuated from the Diciotti early in the drama.

On Wednesday, 27 minors, all teenagers, were allowed to disembark in Catania. Salvini has been adamant that Italy’s populist government won’t allow any of the 150 adults still aboard the vessel disembark unless other EU nations commit to taking the asylum-seekers.

All but about 18 of those aboard are Eritrean; the others are from Somalia, Syria and Sudan. They have told authorities they suffered months and even years of inhumane treatment in detention in Libya, while waiting to leave that lawless country aboard smugglers’ boats.

Another opposition lawmaker who went aboard Thursday expressed particular concern about 11 women, some as young as 19 or 20, still there.

Appealing to Salvini, Laura Boldrini said: “As a father, they could be your daughter. At least let the young women off” the Diciotti.

Sky TG24 TV said some women aboard ate lunch Friday but the men refused the meal.

But Salvini was staying tough, as was fellow deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio, who heads the senior coalition partner, the euro-skeptic 5-Star Movement.

A meeting Friday in Brussels of advisers from 12 countries, including Italy, grappled with how to share the migrant burden in general among EU members, and when it ended Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte complained on Facebook that no progress was made.

“Yet again, we take the measure of the dysfunction, which morphs into hypocrisy, between words and deeds,” Conte said of the latest discussion in Brussels.

Conte said EU members at the meeting “lost a good occasion” to make progress toward solidarity and responsibility “even though they are constantly proclaimed as fundamental values” of the bloc.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.