NGOs have warned about the risk of a new influx of people traveling to Italy from Sudan, torn by fighting between the regular army and a powerful paramilitary force, the Rapid Support Forces.
Non-governmental organizations say there is a risk of a new exodus toward Italy's coasts after fierce fighting erupted on April 15 in Sudan. In addition to the already difficult management of refugees and migrants coming from Tunisia and Libya, the organizations say that "the departure of refugees will increase with the crisis in Sudan".
'Millions of people fleeing in the region'
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR said eastern Chad already hosts over 400,000 refugees from Sudan and new arrivals are placing additional strain on the country's overstretched services and resources.
"In the past days, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people have fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region to seek refuge in neighboring Chad," the organization explained in a statement last week, citing its teams at the border.
UNHCR said "millions of people are fleeing in the region" of Sudan.
"The war is worsening a situation of grave suffering for civilians and will clearly drive people away from the country," warned Bologna-based NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans.
The organization criticized the "failure of Italy's policy, backed by the previous government, to support the paramilitary forces of general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, as occurred in Libya, with the only aim of stopping the departure of people."
The strategy of "externalizing borders didn't work in Libya, will not work in Tunisia and will not work in Sudan," stressed the association.
European rescue organization SOS Mediterranée noted that the exodus has already started with some refugees and migrants arriving in the Puglia port city of Bari "from Sudan" on Sunday, April 23.
"Regardless of where the refugees are coming from, we are ready to save them," said the activists who on Sunday disembarked 29 migrants and refugees rescued off Malta last week by the Ocean Viking vessel run by SOS Mediterranée.
SOS Méditerranée, 'authorities did not rescue migrants in difficulty'
SOS Méditerranée said the "fiberglass boat" on which the refugees and migrants had been traveling "for five days in stormy seas" was adrift in Malta's SAR zone. It took the boat two days to reach Bari, the port of arrival chosen by Italian authorities, after a 770-kilometer journey.
"Although they were aware of the situation, maritime authorities did not rescue" the passengers who were left to their own devices while "the weather was getting worse," the organization denounced on social media.
The area where the NGO-run vessel rescued the migrants and refugees was being patrolled by a "Maltese helicopter" and "an Italian dinghy and cutter" but the two vessels did not help the Ocean Viking, according to SOS Mèditerranée.
Also on April 23, 90 refugees and migrants disembarked in the port of Roccella Jonica, in Calabria. The passengers of various nationalities -- mainly Afghans, Pakistanis and Syrians -- were rescued at sea by the Italian coast guard. They included 24 women and 14 minors, some of whom were traveling alone.