USA

Charity: Rescue ship gets OK to bring 180 migrants to Sicily

ROME (AP) — A humanitarian group said Sunday its rescue ship with 180 migrants stranded aboard for days has “finally” received instructions to sail to an Italian port, so its passengers can be disembarked.

In a tweet, SOS Mediterranee also described “relief on the #Ocean Viking” when the ship’s crew and passengers learned that the rescued migrants are to be disembarked Monday at Porto Empedocle, Sicily.

Earlier, the group said Italian medical staff came aboard to test for COVID-19.

The migrants had been rescued by the Ocean Viking in four separate operations from Libya-based human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats between June 25 and June 30.

After pleas to Malta and Italy for docking permission had failed to quickly yield success, many of the migrants aboard grew increasingly desperate, and six of them tried to kill themselves out of fear no country would take them in, SOS Mediterranee said Friday.

Two of the six had plunged into the Mediterranean and were saved by crew members, the charity said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the 180 migrants would be kept in precautionary quarantine at port or taken to centers on Sicily for asylum-seekers, for initial processing of their requests to stay in Europe.

Italy had employed an unused commercial passenger ferry to put in quarantine off Sicily migrants who were recently rescued at sea by another charity group.

Both Italy and Malta have insisted that fellow European Union countries take many of the rescued migrants, who often aim to reach jobs or relatives in northern Europe. Many of the migrants, smuggled via Libya on flimsy dinghies or rickety fishing boats, are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution and ultimately are found ineligible for asylum. Many come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite diplomatic efforts by EU authorities in Brussels to encourage countries to share the burden of caring for some of the asylum-seekers, only a handful of member nations have agreed on a voluntary basis to accept some of the rescued migrants who are disembarked in Malta or Greece.

Early in the pandemic, Italy declared its ports unsafe for docking by private rescue ships as it sought to contain its devastating coronavirus outbreak.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

More from WTOP

Football news:

Gradecki about the departure Bayer: Very disappointing. Let's try to win the Europa League next season
Barella about 2:1 with Bayer: We put to shame Inter's critics who doubted our unity
Tony about Pirlo at Juventus: Pogba would be the perfect gift for him. Andrea will start building the game from midfield
Solskjaer on Manchester United's victory: We reached the third semi-final of the season and now we want to reach the final
Mata on Manchester United's victory: The team is physically exhausted. It's not our best match, but it's important to win now
Bas Pro 1:2 from Inter: after the opening 20 minutes, Bayer entered the game. I believed that we could do something
Conte on 2:1 with Bayer: When a coach sees such dedication, he is always happy