A German humanitarian ship with more than 800 rescued migrants, including 15 very young children, steamed into a Sicilian port on Sunday after being granted permission by Italian authorities following days of waiting in the Mediterranean Sea.
The charity group Sea-Eye said the vessel Sea-Eye 4 was assigned to the port of Trapani, in western Sicily, on Saturday evening. Most of the adults were to be transferred to other ships for preventative quarantine against COVID-19, while some 160 minors, including babies and other children younger than 4, were to be taken to shelters on land.
Many of the passengers came from countries in West Africa, Egypt or Morocco, said Giovanna di Benedetto, an official from Save the Children in Italy.
Shouts of joy from those aboard Sea-Eye 4 could be heard on Trapani’s dock as the vessel drew near, SkyTG24 TV reported.
About half of the migrants were rescued from a sinking wooden boat on November 4, while the other passengers had been plucked from the sea in separate operations.
Sea-Eye officials had lamented that Malta, a European Union island nation in the central Mediterranean, hadn’t responded to the wooden boat’s distress signal in the Maltese search-and-rescue area.
Meanwhile, another charity ship, Ocean Viking, with 308 migrants aboard, was still awaiting a port assignment near Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island south of Sicily.
The humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee, which operates Ocean Viking, tweeted that its team on Friday night was involved in a search for a boat in distress south of Lampedusa. The charity tweeted that the Italian Coast Guard “eventually coordinated and completed the rescue requesting the assistance” of Ocean Viking.
Separately, the coast guard, working in rough seas, evacuated two people, along with four family members, from the Ocean Viking for medical treatment, including for burns, SOS Mediterranee said.
On Saturday, Sea-Eye 4 received a delivery of food and blankets while it waited to learn where the migrants could set food on land. Doctors aboard Sea-Eye 4 had treated 25 people for hypothermia, sea sickness and high blood pressure, along with injuries consistent with torture.
U.N. refugee agencies have long denounced the practice of torture in detention camps in Libya, where the migrants live, often for weeks or months, until human traffickers arrange their passage aboard flimsy boats.
The number of migrants daring the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing has surged this year to more than 54,000. Still, the numbers are dramatically below those of 2014-2017, when 120,000-180,000 people reached Italy each year, often in rickety smugglers’ boats.