The Ministerial Committe on European Union Affairs on Friday ruled that Finland can take in no more than eight asylum seekers from a migrant rescue boat that last week defied an order not to enter Italian waters.
Operated by a charitable organisation registered in Germany, the vessel reportedly had 42 migrants on board.
The European Commission had asked Finland to take in migrants relocated from member states surrounding the Mediterranean. The Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs on Friday said Finland is ready to launch preparatory work to accept no more than eight asylum seekers from the boat outside the island of Lampedusa in Sicily, Italy.
“The decision is one-off by nature,” reads a press release from the Finnish government.
The press release indicates that the asylum applications of migrants onboard the vessel will be processed according to regular procedures, by assessing the individual need for protection of each applicant.
The Dutch-registered vessel, Sea-Watch 3, had been stuck at sea for a couple of weeks before its crew had no choice but to defy the orders of the Italian government. As no other member state had expressed its willingness to welcome the vessel, the captain decided last week to ignore the risks and sail for Lampedusa.
“I know what I’m risking, but the 42 survivors I have on board are exhausted. I’m taking them to safety,” she told on Twitter.
Matteo Salvini, the Italian Minister of the Interior, had threatened the crew with fines, arrests and seizures if they enter Italian waters. The hard-line politician had also asked other member states to take responsibility for migrants.
“We will use every democratic means to stop this mockery of laws,” he was quoted as saying by Independent.
Italian authorities have taken in roughly a dozen of the migrants aboard the vessel for health reasons, according to the BBC. Salvini has also accused the captain of the boat of trying to sink a police boat when approaching the island in Sicily.