Over 120 rescued migrants allowed to disembark in Italy after long wait at sea

Two charity vessels brought 121 migrants to two ports in Sicily, Italy, on 4 December, after finally receiving approval to enter the port following days at sea.

The migrants were picked up in the Central Mediterranean by two charity vessels, the Alan Kurdi, run by Sea-Eye, a German charity organisation, and the Ocean Viking, run by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The Alan Kurdi had originally picked up 84 migrants on 28 November in two rescue operations, but several people in need of urgent medical and humanitarian needs were evacuated prior to the ship docking in Italy. 

Sixty-one people disembarked the vessel in Messina in north-east Sicily. According to Sea-Eye, two people aboard the Alan Kurdi were ‘collapsed unconscious” two days prior to the ships reaching finally docking in Sicily. 

Sea-Eye expressed concerns over the long delay in allowing the migrants disembark in an Italian or Maltese port. ‘We don’t understand why the ship, despite an alleged agreement for distribution, had to wait so long for a safe port,’ the charity wrote on Twitter.

Another set of 60 migrants were taken to Pozzallo in southern Sicily by the Ocean Viking. Three of the people from the vessel were hospitalised for a broken ankle, a hip problem, and head injuries. 

The long wait at sea ended for both vessels after the Italian Interior Ministry announced that the two charity ships had been authorised to reach Sicily late on 3 December, following an EU deal to share the responsibility of receiving incoming migrants.

“Some European countries, including France and Germany, have already shown willingness to accept migrant quotas,” said the ministry.

Several EU countries, particularly Malta and Italy, have closed their ports to rescue vessels coming in from the Mediterranean in the past.

Vocal criticism of this practice has led to negotiations on the distribution of migrants, but these are often time-consuming and leave migrants stranded at sea until an agreement can be reached by all countries involved. 

The governments of France, Italy, Germany and Malta proposed a distribution system, but the proposal was rejected by other EU members.

TMP 31/12/2019

Photo credit: Pasquale Senatore/Shutterstock

Photo caption: Salerno , Italy – June 29, 2017: Migrants rescued at sea arrived at the port of Salerno with the Spanish ship of the civil guard . There are very many children and women