Crew on Astral seen looking at the sea offshore Malta on May 17, 2022 | Photo: Valeria Ferraro /picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency
Crew on Astral seen looking at the sea offshore Malta on May 17, 2022 | Photo: Valeria Ferraro /picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency

The Spanish rescue organization Open Arms’ sailing boat Astral set out on its 91st mission earlier this week. Already, it has located more than 100 migrants and transferred them to the Italian coast guard’s care.

"We located a second boat with around 70 exhausted people on board," the Spanish rescue organization Open Arms announced on social media. "They had been at sea for more than 20 hours after leaving the Libyan coast."

Astral’s crew said it alerted Italian authorities and the people were then transferred to the Italian coast guard.

Earlier on Wednesday, May 18, Open Arms founder Oscar Camps had already tweeted that the Astral crew had found another boat in international waters with 45 people on board. It had set off from Libya and spent "many hours" at sea. Once again, the Italian authorities were alerted to the plight of the migrants.

On board the Astral

The Astral sailing boat was once a luxury sailing yacht that was donated to Open Arms in 2016 by an Italian entrepreneur Livio Lo Monaco, who is based in Spain. Like the other rescue ships, the crew includes experienced rescuers and doctors as well as sailors.

Most missions are intended to last about two weeks. Because it is smaller than the other rescue ships, the Astral normally assists the migrants it finds until they can be transferred to a bigger vessel or taken to shore by the coast guard. However, sometimes the Astral crew has no choice but to take the migrants on board and then wait to be assigned a port at which they can disembark.

Yacht arrives in Gallipoli

Another group of migrants arrived in the port of Gallipoli in Italy's Puglia region on Tuesday evening. They were travelling on a yacht believed to be owned by smugglers, the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (Southern Gazzette) reported on May 17.

According to the newspaper, the yacht entered the harbor in a "strange manner," at around 7pm and was apprehended by the Italian coastguard.

Authorities conducted COVID tests and checked the health of all those on board the yacht before the migrants were taken to a reception center in Otranto, said La Gazzetta. It was not yet known whether the boat had set off from Turkey or the North African coast.

According to Italian government figures, last updated on May 18, 15,876 migrants arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year. This is an increase on the same period in 2021, when 13,357 arrived.

The majority of those arriving in Italy in 2022 come originally from Egypt, with Bangladeshis following close behind and then Tunisians and those from Afghanistan and Syria. One in ten of the arrivals this year have been unaccompanied minors.


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