The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is getting ready to welcome and offer shelter to the 113 migrants on board the Ocean Viking NGO ship - after a gruelling four-day journey up the Adriatic Sea, imposed by Italian authorities.
Among those rescued earlier in the week by the Ocean Viking private rescue vessel, which is run by the SOS Mediterranee NGO, are 23 women - some of whom are pregnant - as well as 34 unaccompanied minors and three infants. They're all expected to arrive at the northern port of Ravenna on Saturday, December 31.
The regional Vice President in charge of civil protection, Irene Priolo, and regional welfare officer Igor Taruffi stressed that "(t)he region of Emilia-Romagna has always been a welcoming place and will continue to be, especially for those fleeing wars, humanitarian emergencies and wars."
Priolo, who on the morning of 28 December had spoken with Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi and the Mayor of Ravenna, Michele De Pascale, added: "Today we are here to work with all competent authorities to ensure the disembarkation takes place in the smoothest fashion, even though the government's choice, selecting the port of Ravenna, as the destination is something new."
For the most part, the persons on board are reported to be citizens of the Ivory Coast, however, there are also migrants coming from Nigeria, Benin, The Gambia, Pakistan, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Cameroon and Benin among those rescued.
Plan yet to be finalized for unaccompanied minors
On the morning of 28 December, an inspection was carried out on board the ship by the prefecture, after which it was decided that of the 113 migrants, 79 will remain in Emilia-Romagna, who will be distributed across the region according to a plan put together by the Prefecture of Bologna.
This means in practise that 18 will be housed in Bologna, six in Ferrara, seven in Forlì-Cesena, 12 in Modena, eight in Parma, five in Piacenza, seven in Ravenna, ten in Reggio Emilia, and six in Rimini.
The prefecture of the city of Ravenna and the municipality said they will still identify a temporary solution to host the remaining 34 rescued passenge, who are all unaccompanied minors.
Several charities including the Red Cross and Caritas are meanwhile working together to provide meals and clothes for the new arrivals.
Their identification procedures, health screenings and issue of photographic identification will reportedly be carried out directly at the cruise terminal, where they are all due to disembark.