From file: More migrants arrive in Lampedusa, this time in November 2020 | Photo : ANSA
From file: More migrants arrive in Lampedusa, this time in November 2020 | Photo : ANSA

A boat reportedly carrying 149 migrants arrived on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Thursday. It was the second one to arrive that day. More than 1,200 people are now in the reception hotspot on the island.

149 migrants, including 17 minors, were brought to Lampedusa on Thursday (December 8) after being picked up at sea by the Italian Border and Finance Police, Guardia di Finanza.

The migrants were packed on board an 11-meter former fishing vessel which had set off from the Tunisian port of Sfax, reported the local newspaper Giornale di Sicilia. The passengers reportedly included nationals from Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories. Two had to be taken to hospital, but neither of their conditions was reported to be serious.

The boat was the second to arrive that day on the island: The first boat, carrying 63 people including 13 women and 15 minors, was also brought in by a Guardia di Finanza vessel, assisted by Swedish Frontex officers. This group had set off from Sidi Mansour in Morocco on Wednesday night and were mostly Tunisian and Egyptian nationals, reported the local online portal Grandangolo Agrigento.

More than 1,200 people are now reported to be staying in the reception hotspot on the island; Grandangolo Agrigento even puts the total at 1,355, and says the maximum capacity for the reception center is actually 400.

Ali's birth

The Giornale di Sicilia also added a few more details about baby Ali* who was born on board the Geo Barents rescue ship earlier this week, and then evacuated, along with his mother and three brothers, to Lampedusa on request from MSF staff, who operate the Geo Barents.

According to the newspaper, Ali weighed three and a half kilos at birth. His mother, Fatima* is just 25-years old and already had three other sons, reported to be 11, eight and two years old.

Baby Ali* being weighed and checked by the MSF medical team on board the Geo Barents | Photo: Candida Lobes / MSF / Reuters
Baby Ali* being weighed and checked by the MSF medical team on board the Geo Barents | Photo: Candida Lobes / MSF / Reuters

The father of the first two children reportedly died a long time ago from an illness. The father of the third child abandoned Fatima and it wasn’t detailed who Ali’s father is. However, the newspaper said that Fatima had been in Libya for two years and had been working as a domestic servant in that time. Other women helped her look after the children, stated the paper.

The eldest child, said the humanitarian medical charity Doctors without Borders MSF, held his mother’s hands throughout the labor and stayed close to her as she had contractions. Il Giornale di Sicilia said that Fatima had been saving for two years to set aside enough money to make the journey to Europe as she hoped to give herself and her children a better life.

The family was reportedly at sea for ten hours before they were rescued by the crew of the Geo Barents. The waves had caused several of them to suffer nausea and vomiting and one of the children fainted during the voyage.

Private rescue ships waiting to disembark

On Friday, December 9, it was reported by the online portal Ciaktelesud that the private rescue ship Louise Michel, which was carrying 33 Egyptian nationals on board, arrived during the night on Lampedusa and was allowed to disembark. Its position on the ship locator site Marine Traffic shows on December 9 that the ship is indeed in port at Lampedusa.

According to the news portal, that group of migrants are thought to have left Sabratha in Libya on December 6.

More than 500 migrants are still waiting on board the Geo Barents and Humanity 1 for a safe port in which to disembark.

A journalist from the Italian left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto Giansandro Merli tweeted on December 8 the positions of the three rescue ships. According to him, and marked on the map, the Humanity 1 was not far off the coast of Sicily and the Geo Barents and Louise Michel relatively near Lampedusa.

The organization Alarm Phone which monitors migrant journeys towards Europe tweeted earlier this week about how many people had died or were reported missing in the last few days on the central Mediterranean route. According to them, people from three boats which left Tunisia on December 3, 4 and 4, a total of 13 people were missing and one dead.

According to the latest figures from the Italian Interior Ministry, (last updated on December 7) 96,816 migrants had landed on the Italian coasts since the beginning of the year. This is far above the figures for the same period in 2021, which totaled 63,062 and in 2020 when 32,919 had arrived.

*Not their real name, a pseudonym given to them by MSF to protect their identity


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