A group of 58 rescued migrants disembarked from the Sea-Eye 4 in Pozzallo, Sicily, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Geo Barents and Sea-Watch 4 rescue ships – carrying more than 600 migrants together – are still waiting for a port to dock.
The organization Sea-Eye shared snapshots of migrants leaving their ship in Pozzallo on Sunday (May 17), writing on Twitter that they wished the 58 survivors "a good arrival in Europe and only the best for their further journey."
The ship had taken the rescuees on board in two operations within a few days in the Central Mediterranean. The crew had rescued 24 people during the night between Thursday and Friday from a small wooden boat that had reportedly left Benghazi, Libya, four days earlier.
On Saturday (May 7), nearly a week before, the Sea-Eye 4 had taken in 34 people rescued by a cargo ship.
Accusations against Malta
In another Tweet on Sunday (May 15), Sea-Eye thanked the mayor in Pozzallo, on the southern Italian island of Sicily, for welcoming them and the migrants. "Many thanks to the citizens of Pozzallo and their mayor Roberto Ammatuna," they wrote.
While the organization thanked the local Italian authorities, they also criticized Maltese authorities for allegedly failing to help migrants in distress and rescue ships on multiple occasions in recent days.
Last week Sea-Eye director Gorden Isler tweeted that the Maltese forces had "violate[d] its coordination obligations" in the rescue of a migrant boat, leaving the Sea-Eye to set course for a boat far away "because no state actor responds."
On Friday (May 13), the Sea-Eye organization alleged in a Tweet that the captain of a commercial ship near the migrant boat had been instructed by Maltese authorities just to monitor the boat, instead of rescuing the people on the boat.
Nearly 500 migrant on board Geo Barents
Meanwhile, two other rescue ships active in the Central Mediterranean are still awaiting permission to dock at a European port: The Geo Barents currently has nearly 500 rescued people on board, following several operations. And the Sea-Watch 4 is carrying 145 people rescued in two operations that took place on May 4 and 9.
The Central Mediterranean crossing -- from North African countries Libya and Tunisia to Italy -- is one of the most frequented and most dangerous irregular migration routes worldwide. Each year, tens of thousands of people attempt the crossing.
More than 550 deaths in Central Mediterranean this year
So far this year, at least 552 people have been reported dead or missing on the route, according to IOM, though the actual number is likely higher, given that many boat sinkings are never recorded.
While tens of thousands make it across successfully each year, many are intercepted by Libyan coast guards or Tunisian authorities and returned -- often to squalid conditions, in particular in Libya, where migrants face rampant detention, abuse and exploitation.
Last year, the number of people who successfully reached Italy via the Central Mediterranean and the number of those intercepted and returned were similarly high.
About 67,000 people arrived in Italy via sea in 2021, while more than 30,000 people were intercepted and returned to Libya. Between January and September 2021, close to 20,000 people were intercepted and returned to Tunisia.
With dpa, epd