The 27 migrants who disembarked in the port of Pozzallo on Sicily from the ship Mare Jonio on September 13, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Mediterranea
The 27 migrants who disembarked in the port of Pozzallo on Sicily from the ship Mare Jonio on September 13, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Mediterranea

Following Italy's permission to let cargo ship Maersk Etienne disembark 27 rescued migrants, UN refugee agency UNHCR has launched a new appeal for the redistribution of migrants at a European level. The migrants had been stranded at sea for 39 days before being allowed to step ashore in Sicily on September 12.

UNHCR has thanked Italy for allowing 27 migrants to disembark from the Mare Jonio on September 12. The group was first rescued by Danish tanker Maersk Etienne off Tunisia on August 4.

They remained stranded on the tanker until migrant rescue vessel Mare Jonio, which is run by NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans, took the migrants on board on Friday, September 11.

UNHCR also urged European countries to show more solidarity for the redistribution of migrants on Sunday (September 13).

End of 39-day crisis

A team of the UN agency was present when the migrants rescued by the Maersk Etienne -- mainly citizens of Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, Libya, Eritrea and Egypt -- disembarked in Pozzallo, Sicily on Saturday (September 12).

The group reportedly included several minors, some of whom were traveling alone. "We express appreciation for Italian authorities for welcoming these people who are extremely vulnerable," said Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR Italy representative.
"With this decision, Italy has ended a humanitarian crisis that lasted five weeks, showing once again its human face, respecting the significance and spirit of international law. We hope this can be an example for other European states," UNHCR Italy wrote in an online statement from September 13.

'A clear mechanism is necessary'

In the same online statement, UNHCR urged other countries to "abandon the current approach that provides for the adoption of specific agreements and to set a mechanism of disembarkation that is clear, safe and structured." 

According to UNHCR, the hope is that "coastal states take equal responsibility in ensuring a safe port to people rescued at sea, and to whom other EU member states follow, showing solidarity."

Without such a mechanism, UNHCR concluded, "human lives will continue to be in danger in the central Mediterranean."
 

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