From file: The Sea-Watch 3 in Messina on February 27, 2020 | Photo: Carmelo Imbesi / ANSA
From file: The Sea-Watch 3 in Messina on February 27, 2020 | Photo: Carmelo Imbesi / ANSA

The rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 started disembarking the more than 300 people its crew rescued over the past week in Pozzallo, southern Italy. The Mare Jonio was also granted permission to disembark its 92 rescued migrants in Pozzallo.

Rescued migrants started disembarking from the Sea-Watch 3 on Thursday (June 9) shortly before noon, after the ship was allowed to dock in the port of Pozzallo, in the southern Italian region of Sicily.

Around 100 people were allowed leave the ship between roughly 11.30am and 2pm, a spokesperson for Sea-Watch, the organization that operates the ship, told InfoMigrants.

The first people to leave the ship were "medical emergencies", followed by unaccompanied minors, according to a Tweet by Sea-Watch.

The Sea-Watch 3 reportedly had 344 people on board when it reached Pozzallo. Several people rescued by Sea-Watch had already been evacuated from the ship due to medical emergencies before it reached the port of Pozzallo.

The migrants aboard the Sea-Watch 3 had been rescued in six operations, the first of which took place a week earlier. Roughly a third of the rescuees were unaccompanied minors, according to Sea-Watch.

Slow disembarkation process

On Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for Sea-Watch 3 told InfoMigrants that Italian authorities had halted the disembarkations because the hot spots -- emergency reception centers for migrants -- were at capacity, and that they expected many rescuees would have to wait a bit longer to disembark. However, the Sea-Watch was reportedly granted permission to let at least 50 more migrants off the boat on Thursday.

Another NGO-run rescue ship, the Mare Jonio, was also reportedly granted permission to dock in Pozzallo, according to a Tweet from the organization that runs the ship, Mediterranea Saving Humans. The ship's crew rescued 92 people in operations on Sunday (June 5) and Monday (June 6).

The organization tweeted on Wednesday that it would start disembarkations on Thursday, but did not share any updates beyond that (as of Thursday afternoon).

Before the Mare Jonio was assigned the port of Pozzallo, its crew had threated the Italian interior ministry on Wednesday that they would "enter the first accessible port" without permission if they were not granted permission to land at a port within 10 hours.

Italy: More than 20,000 migrants arrived via Mediterranean

The latest arrivals in Pozzallo bring the number of migrants who have arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean so far this year to over 21,000.

At least 690 migrants have been reported missing (and likely died) on this migration route since January 1, 2022, according to the UN migration agency IOM.

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees attempt the dangerous crossing from northern Africa -- primarily Libya, but also Tunisia -- to Italy across the Mediterranean Sea each year. Many are intercepted by Libyan or Tunisian officials -- last year, more than 32,000 people were forced to return to Libya, according to IOM.


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