'Urgent' food aid for 800 migrants stuck off Italy

AFP , Saturday 6 Nov 2021

Rescuers supplied around 800 migrants on a charity ship off Italy with emergency food and warm blankets Saturday, as their appeal for a safe port went unanswered and they braced for another night at sea.

migrants crowded on a boat
File Photo: hundreds of migrants in an overcrowded boat crossing the Mediterranean sea. AFP

German NGO Mission Lifeline said its ship Rise Above had delivered "urgently needed relief supplies" for the hundreds of people stuck on board fellow charity ship Sea Eye 4, including over 200 minors.

The Sea Eye 4 had already been carrying nearly 400 people pulled to safety at sea when it raced to the rescue of another 400 people crowded onto a wooden boat on Thursday.

The Ocean Viking, a charity vessel run by SOS Mediterranee, is also looking for a port for over 300 people it has rescued, bringing the number of migrants seeking to disembark in Italy to over 1,100.

There were "many children under the age of 10" and five pregnant women on board the Sea Eye 4, the NGO said in a statement, adding that over 200 people had been treated so far at the onboard hospital.

"At present, we receive more support from the small Dresden-based sea rescue organization Mission Lifeline than from all EU states together!" Sea Eye chairman Gorden Isler was quoted as saying.

"Our crew is working at the limits of what is humanly possible. The ship must be allowed to dock immediately to ensure the safety of all those rescued and the crew," he said.

Italy is one of the main points of entry into Europe for migrants from North Africa, mainly from Libya and Tunisia, with tens of thousands of people seeking to cross the central Mediterranean each year.

Under previous interior minister Matteo Salvini's "closed ports" policy, European states had to agree to take a certain number of rescued migrants before the charity ships were allowed to dock.

Isler said "negotiations on the distribution of the rescued" should be conducted after the migrants land.

Nearly 55,000 migrants have disembarked in Italy this year, compared to just under 30,000 last year, according to figures from the interior ministry.

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