More than 450 migrants and asylum seekers arrived at the port of Catanzaro, Italy on August 24, 2022 | Photo: Antonio Moniaci/IPA/abaca/picture alliance
More than 450 migrants and asylum seekers arrived at the port of Catanzaro, Italy on August 24, 2022 | Photo: Antonio Moniaci/IPA/abaca/picture alliance

Italy's coast guard has brought more than 1,000 migrants from vessels in the Central Mediterranean Sea to Sicily and the mainland. The Ocean Viking rescue vessel saved 41 people from a boat in distress.

Two coast guard vessels carrying around 350 and 250 people respectively entered the ports of Pozzallo on the southern tip of Sicily and Porto Empedocle near Agrigento after rescuing the migrants on Wednesday (August 24), news agency dpa reported citing the Italian coast guard.

News agency ANSA, meanwhile, spoke of a total of 650 migrants, 250 of which disembarked in Porto Empedocle.

An additional 451 migrants disembarked from a boat in the southern Italian city of Catanzaro Lido, TV channel TgCom24 reported Wednesday evening. The migrants mainly hail from Sudan, Egypt and Syria, according to TgCom24.

"There is a legal duty to bring them to safety, to take them in and provide for their first needs," Catanzaro Lido mayor Nicola Fiorita wrote on his Facebook page.

Separately, private aid organization SOS Méditerranee said it rescued 41 people from a wooden boat Wednesday night and brought them aboard its Ocean Viking search-and-rescue (SAR) vessel, the organization wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

According to the NGO, the boat in distress was already taking on water. Among the group were three women and three unaccompanied minors, SOS Méditerranee said.

The day before, the crew reported four empty boats floating on the water in the Libyan search-and-rescue zone. What happened to the people was unclear, it said.

Geo Barents disembarks 106 migrants

Meanwhile, all 106 migrants who were rescued on Sunday by the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) vessel Geo Barents went ashore in the southern Italian port city of Taranto, MSF announced on Twitter late Wednesday morning.

Close to 50,000 people -- many of whom continue on to other EU countries -- have arrived in Italy so far this year, according to Interior Ministry figures from August 15. More than half of all arrivals hail from Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.

The number is significantly higher than in the same period last year, when it stood at around 34,000, dpa reported.

Read more: Italy: Over 1,000 migrants saved in the Mediterranean

Sea rescue NGOs face difficult time

Migration has been a central issue in Italy's current election campaign, especially for the right-wing parties, which are campaigning against aid organizations' search-and-rescue (SAR) operations and want to prevent landings of boats with migrants.

Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League, has accused MSF of cooperating with smugglers. 

Polls suggest that an alliance of conservative and right-wing parties could win the parliamentary elections on September 25, which could have significant consequences for the operations of the NGO groups.

Deadly Mediterranean

The Central Mediterranean route from northern Africa to Europe is among the deadliest migration routes in the world. 918 people are estimated to have perished so far this year.

Last year, more than 1,500 people drowned while trying to reach European shores. There is no state-run sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Instead, NGO vessels like the Geo Barents conduct search-and-rescue missions to save migrants in distress. It often takes several days or longer until Italian authorities assign the vessel a port. Fellow EU member state Malta hasn't given permission to disembark rescued migrants for a long time.

Unless an NGO vessel finds them first, migrants trying to leave Libya for Europe are usually intercepted and returned by Libyan authorities to Libya, where they often face torture, abuse and death.

In late June, UN investigators reaffirmed previous reports about migrants and refugees detained in Libya facing serious abuse, with women especially being subjected to sexual violence.

With dpa


More articles