More than 500 migrants were rescued by an Italian military ship from a dilapidated smuggling boat adrift off the small island of Lampedusa in southern Italy.
The rescue of 539 migrants from a single fishing boat on Saturday delivered one of the largest numbers of migrants to the Italian island in a single day.
Passengers on the ship included three women and several unaccompanied minors, according to Alida Serrachieri, a nurse who heads the operation of Doctors Without Borders in Lampedusa.
The migrants had crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, but Serrachieri said she did not know how long the crowded fishing boat had been at sea.
Rescuing 539 migrants (pictured) from a single boat that traveled from Libya on Saturday delivered one of the largest numbers of migrants to the Italian island in a single day
Passengers (pictured at the port of Lampedusa) on board the ship included three women and several unaccompanied minors, according to nurse Alida Serrachieri
But she added that the migrants had spent weeks or even months in Libya waiting for the passage in the traffickers’ boats in the hope of reaching Europe.
After being examined by medical staff, it was discovered that at least 20 of the migrants had “injuries” due to torture or physical violence.
âThey had burns, gunshot wounds,â Serrachieri said. ‘[They] were badly worn, some were dehydrated.
Many migrants came from North or West Africa, but some came from Bangladesh, she added.
Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation to determine what may have happened, with investigators examining the possibility that the migrants were falsely imprisoned in Libya, according to local media.
Two coast guard vessels and an Italian financial crime police customs boat, the Guardia di Finanza, transported the migrants ashore in small groups.
Two coast guard ships and an Italian financial crime police customs boat, the Guardia di Finanza, transported the migrants ashore (pictured) in small groups
Earlier on Saturday, two other smaller boats (one in the photo) with around 15 migrants each on board also reached the waters of Lampedusa unassisted from Tunisia
The island housing complex can accommodate around 250 people. Pictured: Members of the Guardia di Finanza prepare to help around 15 migrants to embark on Saturday
The mayor of the island Toto Martello described Saturday’s rescue as “one of the biggest landings in recent times”.
Earlier on Saturday, two other smaller boats with around 15 migrants each on board also reached The waters of Lampedusa without help from Tunisia.
A third of the boats with around 20 on board was also seen as they approached Lampedusa on Saturday afternoon, Serrachieri confirmed.
The island’s housing complex, where migrants stay while the first papers are completed for asylum claims, can hold around 250 people.
But Saturday’s arrivals pushed the number of occupants to around 1,200, with many migrants awaiting transfer by boat to Sicily or mainland Italy.
The political and economic crises in Tunisia are fueling ever-increasing flows of migrants determined to reach Europe, many of whom left in smugglers’ boats from the Libyan coast.
Earlier this month, Italy stepped up pressure on other EU countries to open their ports to migrants rescued by aid ships as political tension smolders within the Italian government’s coalition about a sharply increasing number of arrivals this summer.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese’s office said they had had a long telephone conversation with European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
According to the press release from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, these factors were included in Lamorgese’s request for “an urgent change of direction in the interventions of the Union’s migration policy”.
In May and June, the number of migrants reaching the Italian coast more than tripled compared to the previous year, according to the ministry’s count.
In July, the year-to-year difference was less marked – 8,600 in 2021 compared to 7,000 in 2020.
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, whose anti-migrant League party is a leading partner in Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition, has been increasingly forceful in his criticism of the country’s management of migration. Italy.
Island mayor Toto Martello described Saturday’s rescue as “one of the biggest landings in recent times.” Pictured: About 15 migrants board a financial police vessel
The political crises in Tunisia are fueling ever-increasing flows of migrants determined to reach Europe. Pictured: A member of the Astral rescue boat approaches the migrants on Saturday
“I am convinced that Draghi will wake up Lamorgese,” Salvini said earlier this month after talks with the prime minister. Lamorgese is a career Home Office official who was selected by the prime minister for the post when he formed his pandemic unity government in February.
Salvini noted that in the first seven months of 2021, nearly 30,000 migrants landed in Italy, roughly double the number in the previous year at the same time.
âWhat are we waiting for them to become 100,000? Salvini told reporters.
During the pandemic, Italy transferred large numbers of rescued migrants to unoccupied passenger ferries so that migrants could carry out precautionary quarantine against Covid-19 before possibly transferring them to residential facilities on land.
In recent years, Italy’s calls to other EU countries to welcome some of the migrants, many of whom want to join families in northern Europe, have gone unheeded as part of a solidarity deal. volunteer in the block of 27 members.
Many of those brought to Italy’s shores flee poverty, not conflict or persecution, and ultimately find themselves ineligible for asylum.
But only a few countries, notably Tunisia, have repatriation agreements with Italy, and tens of thousands of migrants end up staying illegally for years.