The Geo Barents ship arrives at the port of Naples, Italy, 27 April 2023. EFE/EPA/CESARE ABBATE

Rescue ship picks up over 330 migrants in Mediterranean

Rome, May 2 (EFE).- Over 300 migrants in distress have been rescued from separate overcrowded wooden boats in the Mediterranean near southern Italy, the Geo Barents sea rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday.

The Geo Barents crew brought some 300 people on board in the early hours of Tuesday, before saving a further 36 migrants from another vessel shortly afterwards, according to the organization.

Among those rescued were three pregnant women and 80 minors, MSF said.

A migrant disembarks from the Geo Barents ship at the port of Naples, Italy, 27 April 2023. EFE/EPA/CESARE ABBATE

The Italian authorities assigned the Geo Barents to disembark the migrants in the northeastern Port of La Spezia, three days away.

“The illegitimate practice of distant ports continues,” MSF wrote on Twitter.

“This decision also affects the physical and psychological well-being of survivors. After their traumatic experience, this unnecessary waiting causes them even more suffering. Humanity first,” it added.

MSF coordinator Fulvia Conte also said: “Under the current maritime conditions, (this) will only increase the suffering of these people who have the right to disembark as quickly as possible in the nearest port.”

The rescue ship, which brought 75 migrants to Naples in southern Italy in the early hours of Tuesday after rescuing them last week, located the first migrant boat after receiving a distress signal from Alarm Phone, a hotline service for distressed migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

“Following the alert received from the @alarm_phone, it took us about four hours to complete this rescue operation,” it said on Twitter. “Everyone is now safely on board the ship and being cared for by our team.”

Alarm Phone has also received a distress call from a boat carrying 36 people off the search and rescue (SAR) zone of Malta.

“Alarm Phone was alerted to a small boat in distress and informed authorities. A merchant vessel was on scene but left again. Yet again an example of RCC (the Rescue Coordination Center) Malta’s policy of non-assistance,” the service posted on Twitter.

A few hours before Geo Barents’ rescue operation, the Nadir humanitarian vessel, run by NGO Resqhip, gave life jackets to 35 distressed migrants and waited for the Italian Coast Guard to come and rescue them. They are expected to be transferred to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

These latest migrant rescue operations come after a new wave of arrivals off the Italian coast last week, with nearly 3,000 people landing in Lampedusa in just 48 hours.

A total of 40,856 migrants arrived in Italy in the first four months of 2023, compared to 10,188 in the whole of last year, according to official figures from the Italian interior ministry. EFE