ROME: Fifty migrants were rescued on Sunday and Monday by the Sea-Watch 3 vessel in the waters off the coast of Libya.
More than 400 people are now on the boat, according to German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch. It is patrolling the central Mediterranean rescuing people trying to reach the small Italian island of Lampedusa in small, crowded boats.
Meanwhile landings continue non-stop on the island. Three vessels with 52 Tunisians on board reportedly landed on Monday morning, and four boats containing 140 foreigners arrived the previous night. One boat, with 13 Tunisians aboard, managed to reach the shore without being intercepted by coast guard vessels.
“On Sunday we had 152 Tunisians arriving here in six different landings,” Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello told Arab News, giving his latest official figures. “There are now 329 migrants in our facility, which can accommodate a maximum of 250 people.
“The prefecture of Agrigento ordered for them to be transferred to the quarantine ship GNV Atlas, which is moored one mile from the coast. We cannot carry on like this. The entire population here is under stress. We are left alone but we have no intention not to help how we can those who arrive here. But this has been going on for too long.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 migrants from Tunisia arrived over the weekend on the southern shores of the Italian island of Sardinia. They were detained by the Italian coast guard and by police.
“They were very dehydrated and tired as they have covered quite a long distance on a small vessel,” a spokesman for the coast guard in Cagliari told Arab News.
The journey to Sardinia from Tunisia is longer than to Lampedusa, and navigation in recent days has been difficult as a result of bad weather.
Sea-Watch said that its Seabird aircraft, which flies over the Mediterranean looking for vessels carrying migrants so that they can be rescued, also reported what it described as “illegal pushbacks operated by the so-called Libyan coast guard.”
Since 2014, nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the UN’s migration agency.
More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior. This is almost double the number of people who arrived in the same period last year.