From file: 60 rescued migrants disembark the Geo Barents on the the port of Augusta on Sicily on September 29, 2021 | Photo: MSF
From file: 60 rescued migrants disembark the Geo Barents on the the port of Augusta on Sicily on September 29, 2021 | Photo: MSF

After spending nine days at sea waiting for a safe harbor, the 111 passengers of the NGO vessel Geo Barents went ashore in Augusta on the Italian island of Sicily. It was the second disembarkation of rescued migrants the port town witnessed in three days.

"The wait is finally over. All 111 survivors on the #GeoBarents can disembark in Augusta (Sicily), where we hope they will receive the assistance and medical care they need."

That's what medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the Geo Barents migrant rescue ship, tweeted on Monday morning (March 14), after Italian authorities granted them permission to dock in Sicily.

On Tuesday, March 15, MSF Italia confirmed to InfoMigrants that all 111 passengers disembarked Monday evening in the Italian port town and have been taken to a quarantine ship, with the exception of those who are eligible for special centers for mothers and babies, unaccompanied migrants, or those in need of hospital treatment.

Many of those on board had been waiting at sea for nine days to be assigned a safe port.

Among those rescued are 54 minors, news agency EFE reported, with the youngest a 4-month-old baby. Many of the migrants were rescued in a serious state of hypothermia as they had fallen into the sea, according to EFE.

Difficult rescues

The first rescue took place on March 5 when an overcrowded rubber dinghy was located adrift with 80 people on board and "after spending so many hours submerged in salt water mixed with fuel, seven of them had to be treated for burns", the Geo Barents crew explained.

"It was the most difficult rescue I've done since I started doing search and rescue in 2017. The boat was already taking on water when we found it at 12 o'clock at night, in the dark," Javier Filgueira Guimera, one of MSF's rescue technicians, told EFE.

"While we were transferring people to our boats, the fiberglass boat capsized. Everyone fell into the freezing water, including a pregnant woman. It was a life or death situation, but we were able to rescue all 31 people," the rescuer recounted in a note.

'She was terrified and cold'

A picture of that woman, Ima* from Cameroon was posted on MSF Sea's Twitter page. "I'll never forget when she arrived on the Geo Barents, she was barely able to walk," commented MSF's on-board midwife, named as Marie-Anne. She added that after falling in the sea, Ima* was "terrified and cold."

The disembarkation of migrants in Augusta on Monday was the second one that took place there within three days: On Saturday (March 12), 28 people rescued by the humanitarian organization Open Arms from the Mediterranean Sea stepped ashore. The Spanish NGO had rescued the group one week previously, some 45 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. Those rescued reportedly hailed from Africa and Maghreb.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Italian authorities have registered more than 5,600 irregular migrant arrivals so far this year. Last year, more than 67,000 migrants arrived on Italian shores irregularly.

*Not her real name, Ima was used to protect the woman's identity and her privacy

With EFE


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