Italy gives a safe harbor to 558 migrants rescued at sea – EURACTIV.com
Italy on Tuesday authorized a charity boat carrying hundreds of migrants rescued at sea to dock in the Sicilian port of Augusta, another ship waiting offshore for permission to bring 440 more ashore.
The Geo Barents ship, managed by the Médecins sans frontières (MSF) association, has embarked 558 people, mostly Africans, in eight separate operations off the Libyan coast in the past 11 days, the association said.
They include 174 minors and a woman eight months pregnant.
The German charity boat Sea Watch 3 is also looking for a port to disembark the 440 migrants it has rescued in recent days in the Mediterranean, including women and young children.
“The weather is getting worse … Everyone has the right to disembark now,” Sea Watch wrote on Twitter.
Italy has seen a sharp increase in the number of migrants by boat in recent months, as the government struggles to reach an agreement with European Union partners on how to handle the influx.
As of December 28, 66,482 migrants had reached Italy so far this year compared to 34,134 during the same period in 2020, according to data from the Interior Ministry.
On average, four people have died each day this year trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe, according to data from The New Humanitarian. In addition to the 1,226 dead, nearly 30,000 were intercepted and returned by the Libyan coast guard supported by the EU.
Upon their return to Libya, they risk internment in detention centers where torture, sexual abuse and violence are rife.
A neighbor of Italy, the island state of Malta has come under heavy criticism for its management of migrant flows. The Maltese government does not allow disembarkation at its ports, instead shifting the responsibility to the LIbye or to private vessels.
In early 2021, Malta refused to allow the disembarkation of a private vessel that had rescued migrants at the request of the authorities. Several people on board attempted suicide after being stranded at sea for weeks.
Then, in December, authorities again refused to allow the disembarkation of more than 200 migrants rescued in its own search and rescue area. They included four pregnant women and eight children, two of whom were injured.
According to local media, authorities said: “Malta is unable to offer you a safe place.