Over 800 people rescued by "Sea Eye 4" disembark in the port of Trapani, Sicily,  November 7, 2021 | Photo: Gabriele Maricchiolo
Over 800 people rescued by "Sea Eye 4" disembark in the port of Trapani, Sicily, November 7, 2021 | Photo: Gabriele Maricchiolo

The Sea-Eye 4 rescued more than 800 people from the central Mediterranean this week — including 200 minors and five pregnant women. The overcrowded ship was stuck at sea for days before getting permission to dock.

A German migrant rescue vessel carrying more than 800 people steamed into the Sicilian port of Trapani on Sunday after being granted permission by Italian authorities following days of waiting in the Mediterranean Sea.

The humanitarian vessel was granted authorization to dock just hours after Mission Lifeline's Rise Above, a fellow charity ship, delivered urgently-needed food and blankets to the Sea-Eye 4.

The ship is carrying five pregnant women as well as over 200 minors — including "many children under the age of 10" — Sea-Eye 4 said in a statement.

On Saturday, the ship had cruised off the coast of Sicily as it awaited authorization to disembark. Arrival in Trapani is expected later on Sunday.

"We are relieved and overjoyed that the difficult hours for our crew and the rescued people will end on Sunday and that the people will finally be safe in Italy," Gorden Isler from Sea-Eye said.

'Negotiations' to be conducted after docking

"Our crew is working at the limits of what is humanly possible," French news agency AFP quoted Isler as saying.

Over 200 people had been treated at the onboard hospital.

"The ship must be allowed to dock immediately to ensure the safety of all those rescued and the crew," he said, adding that "negotiations on the distribution of the rescued" should be conducted after the migrants land.

'Appalled' by Malta

The charity ship had already been carrying nearly 400 people when on Thursday it raced to rescue another 400 people crowded onto a wooden boat that was filling with water.

Since then, the Sea-Eye 4, which is operated by the charity Sea-Eye, repeatedly appealed to the government in Rome to allow it to dock.

The first destination was the Italian island of Lampedusa. However, the ship was not permitted to dock there.

Malta also did not respond to emergency calls over the course of the week from the NGO, Isler said, adding that he was "appalled" by the country's "failure to provide assistance."

The ship then headed towards Sicily as chances there were considered better and the weather was worsening, Isler told German news agency dpa.

Hundreds more seeking to disembark 

In addition to the Sea-Eye 4, the Ocean Viking, which is operated by the European aid organization SOS Mediterranee, is said to have 314 migrants on board.

The vessel is looking for a port, bringing the number of migrants seeking to dock in Italy this week to over 1,100.

Italy is one of the main points of entry into Europe for migrants traveling from North Africa, especially Libya and Tunisia.

Almost 55,000 migrants have disembarked in Italy this year, compared to just under 30,000 last year, according to figures from the Italian Interior Ministry. 

mvb/rs (dpa, AFP)

First published: November 7, 2021

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