A patrol boat of the Italian Financial Guard enters the port with migrants onboard, in Lampedusa, near Agrigento, Italy, 10 August 2023. EFE-EPA/ELIO DESIDERIO

Italy assigns port to rescue sailboat carrying 59 migrants

Rome, Aug 12 (EFE).- The Italian authorities assigned a port to the Astral sailboat operated by Spanish NGO Open Arms, which rescued 59 people in the Mediterranean after evacuating an unconscious, pregnant woman.

Migrants disembark from a harbor master's patrol boat that arrived at the commercial port of the island of Lampedusa, Italy, 10 August 2023. EFE-EPA/ELIO DESIDERIO

Migrants disembark from a harbor master’s patrol boat that arrived at the commercial port of the island of Lampedusa, Italy, 10 August 2023. EFE-EPA/ELIO DESIDERIO

“Land is in sight on the horizon and the deck fills with joy and uncertainty. There is very little time left for the 59 people aboard to step on safe ground where they can regain their dignity and rights,” the nonprofit said on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday.

A few hours earlier, Open Arms had said that “finally, Astral has been assigned a safe port to disembark the 59 rescued people on board: Porto Empedocle, Sicily.”

“After many hours of waiting, they will soon set foot on safe land,” it added.

On Friday, the crew asked the Italian government to assign a safe port of disembarkation for the migrants aboard the sailboat but the Italian authorities told them to request a port from Tunisia.

“We reiterate that Tunisia cannot be considered a safe port, that the rescue operation has been coordinated by the Italian authorities and that it has taken place in the SAR zone of Malta,” Open Arms said.

Aboard the sailboat was a pregnant woman who had to be evacuated in coordination with the Maltese Coast Guard after losing consciousness.

“At this moment, 5 children are traveling on board Astral, two of which are only a few weeks old, and we urgently need a port to disembark them,” the organization said.

The Spanish NGO recalled that in recent months the Tunisian government had been implementing a xenophobic policy against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

In many cases, the migrants have been detained and abandoned in the desert without water or food, which has caused dozens of deaths, including that of minors, according to Open Arms.

The situation in the Mediterranean continues to be dramatic and several humanitarian vessels are carrying out operations to rescue hundreds of people trying to cross the sea by boat.

Among them is the Ocean Viking ship, operated by the SOS Mediterranee NGO, which said on Friday that it had rescued more than 500 migrants.

Meanwhile, the reception center on the island of Lampedusa, with a capacity of 400 people, is overflowing with nearly 2,000.

On Thursday, Pope Francis asked the world “not to remain indifferent” to migrant “tragedies” such as the latest shipwreck that occurred in the Central Mediterranean, in which 41 people died when the makeshift boat in which they were traveling from the Tunisian town of Sfax capsized.

According to the latest data from the Italian interior ministry, so far this year almost 94,000 migrants have disembarked on Italian coasts, more than double the 45,000 in the same period of last year. EFE