Some of those rescued aboard the Open Arms boat in mid-November 2020 | Photo: Reuters
Some of those rescued aboard the Open Arms boat in mid-November 2020 | Photo: Reuters

The Open Arms rescue ship, run by the Spanish organization of the same name, said on Sunday that it was leaving Trapani on the Italian island of Sicily to head back to Barcelona. There it will change its crew and head back out for its 79th rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Spanish rescue orgnization Open Arms tweeted on Sunday that "(M)ission 78 is going home." After a two-week long quarantine in Sicily, the ship is returning to Barcelona to change crew before heading back to the Mediterranean Sea for its 79th mission.

The tweet thanked the crew for its "enormous humanitarian work, service and generosity."

The Open Arms ship had been in quarantine in the harbor at Trapani, on the Italian island of Sicily, for the last two weeks since it arrived in Trapani on November 14, where it unloaded five bodies and 259 rescued migrants.

Aja's story

Mission 78 carried out three big rescues, including helping 110 migrants on one boat near the Libyan coast.

One of the people on board that ship which was sinking as the Open Arms crew arrived was Aja.

According to a UNHCR film made with her after she reached Italy, she lost her son Yusuf or Joseph in the accident. He was just seven months old.

Aja told UNHCR Italy that she was forced into marriage at the age of 13 because her parents had no money. She soon became pregnant and had one child whom she left with her mother in Guinea. Soon after giving birth, she decided to set off to find work. She says she worked a while in Mali before heading to Libya.

In Libya, explains the UNHCR film, Aja worked "cleaning and in a hospital," and that's where she became pregnant with Yusuf. She wanted to give birth to him in Italy as there wasn't enough work for her in Libya and people sometimes threw stones at black people like her, but he was already seven months when she made it on to a boat to cross the Mediterranean.

Aja says, as the rescuers arrived, she lost site of Yusuf as the boat was sinking. He was later found by the crew of the Open Arms. Now, Aja says she hopes to learn Italian and work in Italy and obtain residency papers so she can help her parents back home.

The German news agency dpa reported that according to Italian official figures, almost 32,500 people have crossed the Mediterranean or been rescued and landed in Italy in 2020 so far. In the same time period in 2019, that number was just under 11,000.


More articles