ROME: Italy has authorised a boat operated by the Spanish NGO Open Arms to disembark 265 migrants, including 63 minors, in Porto Empedocle, on the southern Sicilian coast.
The NGO’s vessel rescued 169 people in the Mediterranean on Dec. 31 and 96 on Jan. 2. They include at least fourteen women, one of them nine months pregnant, and 40 unaccompanied teenagers. The migrants will be taken to a quarantine ship moored off Porto Empedocle.
“Most of the migrants are Eritreans, but they also come from other countries such as Sudan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Those people are fleeing from Libyan detention centers, where they have been subjected to violence. All these men and women bear on their bodies the signs of the months, some of them even years, which they spent in those places, where they were held in inhumane conditions,” Monica Alfonsi, Open Arms representative in Italy told Arab News.
The rescued migrants had been waiting nearly four days on the Spanish humanitarian ship for a European country to authorise them to land, amid worsening sea conditions. Malta had refused permission for the migrants to disembark.
Most of the people aboard set off in dinghies from the Libyan city of Sabratha, about 60 kilometres west of Tripoli, on the morning of Dec. 30.
“They had a very difficult time because the weather conditions were very bad, with waves one and a half meters high and pouring rain,” Alfonsi said.
A total of 34,134 migrants arrived in Italy in 2020, almost three times as many as in the previous year, according to data published by the Italian Ministry of the Interior.
The Italian government has repeatedly asked the EU to launch a joint management plan for the migrants in the waters of the Central Mediterranean.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio yet again requested this week that the European Commission show courage to approve “a common response to the issue of immigration” and cease to be “immobile” while tens of thousands of people flee their home countries and try to reach Europe.