The Open Arms Uno has started disembarking 402 rescued migrants and refugees in Messina, southern Italy. Also on board is the body of a young Eritrean migrant allegedly killed by a smuggler. The charity operating the ship said he would now be given a proper burial.
Spanish migrant rescue ship Open Arms Uno began disembarking 402 migrants at the Italian port of Messina in Sicily on Wednesday (September 22).
"And, finally, we disembark in Messina, Italy. For the first time in a long time, 402 people set foot on a safe place where they can build a decent future in peace and freedom," Open Arms -- the charity that operates the ship -- tweeted. "May Europe treat them with the dignity to which every human being is entitled."
Hours earlier, Open Arms had said that some of the migrants on board were suffering from health complications and needed to disembark urgently.
Dead migrant found on boat during rescue
Also aboard the ship was the body of one deceased migrant.
"His name was Wegihu; he was 20 years old and Eritrean. His corpse, covered by a blanket, sailed for +24 hours in the boat with 59 people until they were rescued after running into some oil derricks," Open Arms said in a tweet.
Wegihu's body was found in a boat by the Open Arms crew last Friday, when they rescued 59 migrants, several of them children, from an oil platform in international waters off Tunisia. The migrants, mostly from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea, had reportedly been forced to abandon their flimsy boat.
'Hit so hard he lost his life'
According to Open Arms, some of the survivors recounted how at the moment they were about to embark from Libya, the smuggler hit Wegihu "so hard that he lost his life and forced the people on board the boat to carry his corpse with them."
The charity said they kept the body on board so that Wegihu's "loved ones have a place to mourn their loss" and that he would be given a burial after they arrive in Messina.
The Open Arms Uno carried out four rescue operations in recent days. Last weekend's rescues saved scores of people seeking to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea to Europe in unseaworthy boats.
So far this year, about 66,323 migrants have arrived on Italian shores, compared to 43,043 in the same period of 2021, according to Italy's Interior Ministry.