A group of 129 people rescued at sea by German charity Sea-Eye has been brought ashore in the port of Taranto in southern Italy. Three other private rescue vessels are currently in the Central Mediterranean with rescued migrants on board.
According to Sea-Eye, more than half of the 129 rescuees spent 14 days at sea, the organization said on Friday (September 16). The group includes 48 unaccompanied minors.
On September 2, the crew rescued 76 people from a wooden boat, one of whom later had to be evacuated for medical reasons. Last Thursday, the Sea-Eye 4 took aboard another 54 people who had been rescued by another ship, the Rise Above of the organization Mission Lifeline.
According to Sea-Eye, the Maltese rescue coordination center didn't assist the crew even though the ship was located in the Maltese search-and-rescue (SAR) zone during the rescue operations.
On Thursday, meanwhile, the Open Arms Uno ship of the Spanish organization Open Arms rescued 19 migrants from a wooden boat, including four children and two babies. The people were from Syria and Sudan, the organization said.
Over 500 rescued migrants still waiting
Two other private vessels carrying migrants are currently still waiting to be allocated ports. The Humanity 1 of the organization SOS Humanity has 415 people on board after four missions within a week. Half of the rescuees are children and young people, 113 of them unaccompanied, according to the charity. In a tweet on Friday, the NGO said the crew has so far made 13 unsuccessful requests for disembarkation.
"The rescued people suffer from sunburn, dehydration, exhaustion and the consequences of the insecurity of the last days," a SOS Humanity spokesperson said. Moreover, many of them had already sustained injuries on their way to Europe, news agency epd reported.
The second vessel waiting to be assigned a port is the Sea-Watch 3, which has also requested several times to be given permission to bring its 428 rescuees ashore, according to information by NGO Sea-Watch, which operates the vessel. The organization said there are many children and minors on board.
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 private rescue charities 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.
Read more: Italy: Pushback against anti-migration 'naval blockade' proposal by far-right candidate
The Central Mediterranean route from northern Africa to Europe is among the deadliest migration routes in the world.
More than 1,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to reach European shores so far this year. The number of unreported cases is likely higher. There is no state-run sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Instead, NGO vessels like the Sea-Eye 4 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.
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.
Read more: Migrants accuse EU of facilitating abuse in Libya after interceptions at sea