Welcoming Italy's decision to allow 37 refugees on the Cap Anamur ship to disembark in the European country after spending several weeks stuck at sea, the United Nations refugee agency said today it would try to speak to the group to find out if they wanted to make asylum claims.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) praised Rome for placing humanitarian considerations first, rather than maintaining the impasse that has developed in recent weeks.
The Cap Anamur, which is operated by the German aid agency of the same name, was allowed to dock at a port in Sicily yesterday, three weeks after the ship picked up 37 Africans whose boat was stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.
Briefing reporters in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville said the origin of the rescued people was not clear - initial reports said the group were Sudanese, but reports from Italy yesterday indicated they were from Ghana and Nigeria.
Mr. Colville said UNHCR staff in Sicily are monitoring the situation and attempting to contact the refugees, who are being held at a centre on the island, to find out more about their situation.
Some of the group made asylum claims while on the Cap Anamur, but Mr. Colville said UNHCR was unsure whether any of them were claiming asylum in Italy.