Rescued migrants onboard Spanish NGO rescue vessel Aita Mari could finally go ashore at the southern Italian port city of Messina on Friday. The vessel had picked up 158 migrants several days earlier. In a separate development, the Maltese coast guard on Thursday and Friday picked up some 160 people from three boats; there were allegations that officials had waited for 18 hours before taking any action.
According to Humanitarian Maritime Rescue Association (SMH), which operates the Spanish Aita Mari
search and rescue (SAR) vessel, 158 rescued migrants were brought to the Sicilian city of Messina, among them several women with small children.
On Monday, the crew of the vessel had picked up 60 migrants in waters in the central Mediterranean. 93 people, including 13 children and 16 women, were rescued in a first operation on Sunday.
Two days later, Italy's interior ministry assigned the vessel to the port of Messina as a safe harbor.
Coast guard rescues 160 from three boats after long waits
In a separate development, the Maltese coast guard on Thursday rescued the passengers of another vessel that was in distress in Mediterranean waters. According to German NGO Sea-Watch, some 60 people on board had to wait for 18 hours after they had made a call for help before finally being rescued.
Distress hotline Alarm Phone, which had received the distress call on Wednesday, spoke of a case of "non-assistance" that set a new "record in delaying help to migrants." The boat was drifting in the Mediterranean for hours due to an engine failure.
On Thursday, Alarm Phone said two further boats in distress had contacted them in the afternoon with "34 people & 70 people" on board. The organization called on the Maltese armed forces to help, and later accused them of being "uncooperative."In the early afternoon of Friday, Alarm Phone made back-to-back announcements on Twitter, saying that the Maltese coast guard had picked up all passengers from both boats. Similarly to the earlier situation on Thursday, the rescued migrants on the two boats had also allegedly had to wait around 18 hours after first sounding the alarm, the organization said on Twitter.
With material from epd