Migrants wait to disembark in the port of Roccella Jonica, Calabria region, southern Italy, early Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. AP
The rescue began Saturday night and ended early Sunday when the 303 migrants, soaked and shivering, stepped on to the port of Roccella Jonica in the the Calabria region.
While most migrants seeking to reach Italy in the central Mediterranean depart from Libya or Tunisia, authorities say an increasing number of traffickers' boats aiming for European shores are plying a route that begins in Turkey and ends at the southern tip of the Italian peninsula.
Those rescued from traffickers' unseaworthy rubber dinghies and wooden boats that depart from North Africa are usually taken to Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island, or to ports in Sicily. But those from Turkey are generally taken to Calabria or Puglia in the ``heel'' of the Italian mainland.
In Roccella Jonica, Red Cross volunteers early Sunday handed the migrants plastic clogs, blankets, food and protective face masks as part of COVID-19 precautions. Authorities recently set up a tent structure to serve as temporary housing but it's only supposed to hold up to 120 people.
As of Nov. 12, 57,833 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year.
In 2020, more than 31,000 arrived. In 2019, when anti-migrant leader Matteo Salvini used his post as interior minister to try to thwart charity boats from disembarking people they rescued at sea, just under 10,000 arrived.