ROME: Italy has rescued 430 migrants, including 13 minors, from a fishing boat that on Tuesday evening ran aground in front of the Levante pier of the port of Pozzallo, in the southeast of Sicily.
A spokesman from the Italian Coast Guard told Arab News that the boat came from Tunisia. Most of the migrants aboard, he added, were Tunisians, while some came from Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Those were the youngest in the group, and they were not looking well at all, so our doctors are now treating them,” the spokesman added.
Transshipment operations of refugees were carried out by the police and the Italian Coast Guard with inflatable boats and a tugboat. The operations ended at 2 a.m. Mayor of Pozzallo Roberto Ammatuna coordinated the rescue from the pier.
“It was not an easy task because the ship had been severely damaged by the hit, and the weather was getting worse. However, all the fishermen of Pozzallo and some young guys helped rescuers with small boats and dinghies so that everything could be done quickly,” he told Arab News.
The migrants were taken to the municipal gym, where they were tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). On Wednesday, they will be transferred to a quarantine ship.
Bad weather conditions in the Central Mediterranean are not deterring migrants from departing from Tunisia and Libya toward Italian shores.
“The 430 who made it to Pozzallo confirm this trend, and we have to face it,” Rear Adm. Roberto Isidori from the Italian Coast Guard told Arab News.
He explained that the migrants are departing “despite the controls by the Tunisian Coast Guard, which have become more stringent in the past few weeks.”
The pressure on Sicily from migrant arrivals is worsening. Six landings were counted only yesterday in Lampedusa, with nearly 200 of them from Tunisia.
On the tiny island, which is closer to the Tunisian coasts than to the Italian mainland, the Imbriacola reception center is again severely taxed.
On Tuesday night, 885 migrants were held there — more than three times the maximum capacity of the hotspot at 250.
“It is now time for the Interior Ministry, which runs the Lampedusa facility, to do something to expand its capacity, even though we all know that it will never be enough. When you have six landings from Tunisia on a single winter day with tough weather, no reception center can be enough,” Don Carmelo La Magra, the parish priest of Lampedusa, told Arab News.