Charity boat carrying 257 migrants docks in Italy after permission granted

Migrant Crisis, war torn Libya

A German charity boat carrying 257 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean has docked in Sicily after Italian authorities granted permission, and hours later a French humanitarian vessel with 549 migrants aboard received a similar port assignment.

After several days in limbo at sea, Sea-Watch 3 sailed into port at Trapani, western Sicily.

Among the migrants aboard were 70 minors, some of them travelling without adult guardians while trying to reach Europe. Health workers were administering Covid-19 tests to the migrants.

German maritime rescue group Sea-Watch said Italian authorities assigned the German-flagged vessel a port on Friday after sea conditions in the central Mediterranean deteriorated.

Italy appealed to the European Union earlier in the week to press fellow EU nations to take some of the thousands of asylum-seekers who have arrived in the country in recent months, a sharp increase since 2020.

But similar past appeals for EU solidarity largely went unheeded, and there was no immediate signal the Italian government’s latest pitch would prove more effective.

A French charity, SOS Mediterranee, said that Italy had granted port permission to the Ocean Viking, which is carrying 549 passengers, including a three-month-old infant, who were rescued in six separate operations this week.

The Viking was expected to arrive at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, on Sunday.

The Italian coast guard took one migrant off the boat for medical reasons on Friday night, the fourth such evacuation from the Ocean Viking in recent days.

Italy’s interior minister earlier in the week pressed the European Union for an “urgent” change of direction on migrant policy.

Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, whose anti-migrant League party is a member of the country’s wide-ranging coalition coalition, is insisting premier Mario Draghi act decisively to stem the flow of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores.

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