In what Courthouse News calls "a high-stakes legal and political drama," some 150 asylum seekers rescued from the Mediterranean Sea are being held on a docked Italian coast guard ship for a fifth day on Friday. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini—an anti-immigrant politician who has refused to let the asylum seekers set foot on Italian soil—has threatened to send those aboard the vessel, which is named the Diciotti, back to Libya. Critics say Salvini is breaking both Italian and international law. And Italian media has reported that a public prosecutor was investigating an "unknown person" for illegal imprisonment, according to DW.com. In reply to potential legal jeopardy, though, Salvini said, "I'm not afraid of anything. I have a clean conscience," per Courthouse News.
On Thursday, 27 children between 14 and 16 years of age were allowed to leave the boat, per DW.com. As for the rest of the migrants, Salvini, who has pledged to deport some 500,000 immigrants from Italy, is asking other European Union countries to accept them, even threatening to withhold payments to the EU. As of Friday, Belgian and Hungary had refused, according to reports, and Germany has not made a decision. While Salvini's hardline stance on immigration reportedly has popular support, not all Italians agree with him. Earlier this week, some 300 people brought arancini (fried rice balls) to the Sicilian port where the Diciotti is docked as, organizers said, "a symbol of welcome and assistance, The Local reports. Onboard the boat, the asylum seekers have begun a hunger strike to protest their detention, the Guardian reports. (Read more immigration stories.)