The Italian Coast Guard rescued 244 immigrants last night, including a newborn, in Mediterranean waters, in the framework of a “very complex” relief operation due to weather conditions at sea.
The rescue took place about 50 miles (about 80 kilometers) off the coast of the Calabria region, the “tip” of the Italian boot, according to a coastguard statement.
The operation was “very complex” due to the storm unleashed at night in this area of the Mediterranean and lasted for almost sixteen hours.
Finally it was possible to save the 244 migrants traveling in an old wooden fishing boat, including 41 declared minors and a newborn, who has already been taken in ashore by port agents and volunteers.
The rescue involved the coast guard from the town of Roccella Jonica and a Romanian ship from the European agency for external borders Frontex, which took in part of the saved migrants.
A merchant ship diverted to the rescue zone to assist in the operation also participated.
On the other hand, the ship of the humanitarian organization Sea Watch with 461 immigrants on board waits to complete its disembarkation in the Sicilian port of Augusta (south), because until yesterday only two pregnant women had come ashore.
The NGO explained that all those rescued had tested negative for the coronavirus but that, even so, their disembarkation proceeded very slowly.
Last night he denounced that the authorities had “interrupted” the disembarkation of hundreds of migrants, despite the fact that many have precarious health conditions after spending more than a week at sea, at the mercy of the cold and rain.
So far this year, according to data updated on Friday by the Interior Ministry, 62,236 migrants landed in Italy, double the number in the same period last year (32,542) and six times more than in 2019 (10,707).
Pope Francis expressed this Sunday his “grief” for the dead migrants Wednesday in a shipwreck in the English Channel, as well as those blocked on the Belarusian border or those who drown in the Mediterranean, and rejected “any type of instrumentalization.”
“It hurts me (…) those who died in the English Channel; those on the borders of Belarus, many of whom are children; those who drown in the Mediterranean ”declared the Supreme Pontiff during his Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
“How many migrants are exposed, even these days, to very serious dangers, and how many lose their lives on our borders,” the Pope claimed. And he added: “I renew my sincere appeal to those who can contribute to solving these problems, especially the civil and military authorities, so that understanding and dialogue finally prevail over any kind of instrumentalization.”
Francisco’s statements were given on the same day that it was carried out. a meeting on immigration between Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, in the port city of Calais (northern France). The United Kingdom was excluded from this meeting due to a diplomatic dispute with France.
The meeting is a reaction to the shipwreck that killed at least 27 people on Wednesday in the English Channel., the daily scene of migrant journeys aboard fragile vessels that seek to reach the British shores.
The Pope also had a few words for migrants who want to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe: “That they are repatriated to North Africa, captured by traffickers, who turn them into slaves: they sell the women, they torture the men.”
“The migrants who find themselves in these crisis situations I assure you my prayer, and also my heart: know that I am close to you,” he added.
With information from EFE and AFP
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