A charity-run rescue boat carrying 33 migrants was allowed to dock and disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa early Friday, while two more NGO vessels with more than 500 people aboard remained at sea.
The migrants had been rescued from a small wooden boat in the Mediterranean two days ago and taken on board the Louise Michel rescue ship.
“As (the) weather was dangerously deteriorating, the permission to enter Lampedusa came at the last moment,” the operators of the Louise Michel said in a Tweet.
The two other NGO ships, the Geo Barents and the Humanity 1, were both off the east coast of Sicily waiting for disembarkation, with no indication on whether they would be assigned a safe port.
A 14-year-old boy, who was travelling alone, was airlifted from the Geo Barents to Sicily after suffering acute abdominal pain, said the charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), which runs the ship.
On Wednesday, a baby was born on the same vessel and later flown to Sicily with his mother and three siblings.
Some 261 people remained aboard the Humanity 1 vessel, the charity SOS Humanity said, including around 30 women, some of them pregnant, and over 90 minors, most of them unaccompanied.
In spite of help requests sent to both Italy and Malta during the rescue operations, “no coordination by the rescue coordination centres took place,” the NGO said in a statement.
The growing number of migrants stranded at sea risks leading to a new confrontation with Italy’s right-wing government, in a replay of last month’s drama involving France.
In November, Rome took in three NGO vessels, but refused docking rights for a fourth one, forcing it to sail to France with around 230 people aboard.
The French government accused Italy of breaking maritime law and retaliated by saying it would no longer house 3,000 migrants currently in Italy under a voluntary European burden-sharing deal.
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