German rescue boat with 800 migrants reaches Sicilian port

A German humanitarian ship carrying more than 800 rescued migrants, including 15 very young children, entered a Sicilian port on Sunday after obtaining permission from the Italian authorities after days of waiting in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Sea-Eye charity group said the ship Sea-Eye 4 was assigned to the port of Trapani in western Sicily on Saturday evening. Most adults were to be transferred to other ships for preventive quarantine against COVID-19, while some 160 minors, including babies and other children under 4, were to be taken to shelters on shore .

Many of the passengers came from West African countries, Egypt or Morocco, said Giovanna di Benedetto, a Save the Children official in Italy.

Cries of joy from those on board Sea-Eye 4 could be heard at the Trapani quayside as the ship approached, SkyTG24 TV reported.

About half of the migrants were rescued from a sinking wooden boat on November 4, while the other passengers were pulled from the sea in separate operations.

Sea-Eye officials lamented that Malta, an island nation of the European Union in the central Mediterranean, did not respond to the distress signal from the wooden boat in the Maltese search and rescue area.

Meanwhile, another charity ship, Ocean viking, with 308 migrants on board, was still awaiting a port assignment near Lampedusa, a small Italian island south of Sicily.

The humanitarian organization SOS Méditerranée, which operates Ocean viking, tweeted that his team were involved in a search for a distressed boat south of Lampedusa on Friday evening. The charity tweeted that the Italian Coast Guard “finally coordinated and completed the rescue by asking for help” from Ocean viking.

In addition, the coast guard, working in rough seas, evacuated two people, as well as four members of their families, from the Ocean viking for medical treatment, including for burns, said SOS Mediterranean.

Saturday, Sea-Eye 4 received a delivery of food and blankets while waiting to find out where migrants could drop food on land. Doctors on board Sea-Eye 4 treated 25 people for hypothermia, seasickness and high blood pressure, as well as injuries consistent with torture.

UN refugee agencies have long denounced the practice of torture in detention camps in Libya, where migrants live, often for weeks or months, until human traffickers organize their passage aboard fragile boats.

The number of migrants daring the dangerous crossing of the central Mediterranean has jumped this year to more than 54,000. Yet the figures are significantly lower than those of 2014-2017, when 120,000 to 180,000 people reached Italy each year, often in rickety smugglers’ boats.

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