German rescue ship arrives in Sicily with 800 migrants

ROME (AP) – A German humanitarian ship with more than 800 rescued migrants on board arrived in Sicily on Sunday after receiving permission from Italian authorities to dock and after several days of waiting at sea.

The organization Sea-Eye reported that its ship Sea-Eye 4 had been assigned on Saturday night the port of Trapani, in western Sicily.

Sea-Eye thanked the Italian Coast Guard in a tweet after obtaining permission to use Trapani as a safe harbor.

Most of the adults were to be transferred to other ships for preventive quarantine against COVID-19, while about 160 minors, including infants and other children under the age of 4, will have to be transferred to shelters on land.

Many of the passengers came from West African countries, Egypt or Morocco, reported Giovanna di Benedetto, an official with Save the Children in Italy.

Cheers of joy from those on board Sea-Eye 4 could be heard at the Trapani pier as the ship approached, SkyTG24 TV reported.

About half of the migrants were rescued from a sinking wooden barge on November 4, while the other passengers were rescued from the sea in separate operations.

Representatives from Sea-Eye regretted that Malta, a European Union island nation in the central Mediterranean, did not respond to the barge’s distress signal when it was in the Maltese search and rescue zone.

Meanwhile, another charity ship, the Ocean Viking, with 308 migrants on board, was still waiting to assign a port near Lampedusa, a small Italian island south of Sicily.

Sea-Eye 4 received a delivery of food and blankets on Saturday as it waited to find out where the migrants could disembark.

The blankets and food were provided by Mission Lifeline, an organization based in Dresden, Germany, which said more than 200 German cities and towns had expressed their willingness to receive migrants.

The number of people undertaking the dangerous journey through the central Mediterranean rose to more than 54,000 this year. Although it is a higher figure than in recent years, it is still well below the data between 2014 and 2017, when between 120,000 and 180,000 people arrived in Italy by sea, often in flimsy smugglers’ boats.

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