The Sea-Watch 3 at Lampedusa port | Photo: Picture-alliance/Photoshot
The Sea-Watch 3 at Lampedusa port | Photo: Picture-alliance/Photoshot

Italian authorities have assigned NGO rescue vessels Sea-Watch 3 and the Open Arms with almost 240 rescued migrants on board the ports of Taranto and Messina, respectively. Four EU countries agreed to receive the migrants, yet a binding quota system for the distribution of migrants rescued at sea is still not in place.

After several days at sea, Italy has agreed to allow migrants rescued by the Sea-Watch 3 and the Open Arms private rescue vessels to disembark at two southern Italian port cities.

German-run Sea-Watch 3, carrying 119 migrants, was assigned the port of Taranto while Spanish Open Arms, with 118 rescued migrants, will dock in Messina. That's according to a statement by Il Viminale, the Italian Interior Ministry, from Tuesday.

European Union member states France, Germany, Portugal and Ireland have agreed to "welcome" the migrants aboard the vessels, the ministry added.

"We are happy that our guests can finally step on safe land, but there is still a lot that needs to be changed," Sea-Watch wrote on Twitter. Last Thursday and Friday, the Sea-Watch 3 had picked up 119 migrants in three rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.

Following the rescues, the NGO accused the Maltese government of deliberate inaction when it comes to saving the lives of migrants and refugees in Mediterranean waters.

The Open Arms had taken aboard 118 people, including pregnant women, children and babies, in two separate rescue operations on Friday, January 10.

Still no binding quotas

An informal deal on redistributing migrants rescued at sea has been in place since September 2019 between Germany, France, Italy and Malta. However, the EU subsequently failed to establish a binding distribution quota system.

This disagreement among EU states led to migrants sometimes spending weeks stranded at sea last year.

Oscar Camps, founder of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, on Tuesday said he was hoping that an agreement on an "automatic disembarkation and redistribution mechanism" would be reached quickly.

Camps also called for the cancellation of the agreements between EU member states and war-torn Libya due to the attacks of the so-called Libyan coast guard on private rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.

With material from dpa, epd, KNA


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