A charity ship sails to a Sicilian port on Saturday with 236 migrants rescued from human traffickers’ boats in the Mediterranean
ROME – A charity ship sailed to a Sicilian port on Saturday with 236 migrants rescued from human trafficking boats in the Mediterranean, while the Italian Coast Guard and border police ships brought another 532 rescued migrants to a small island.
The maritime rescue group SOS Mediterranee said the ship it operated, Ocean Viking, pulled migrants to safety from two rubber dinghies four days ago. According to the instructions of the Italian authorities, Ocean Viking sailed to Augusta in Sicily with its passengers, including 119 unaccompanied minors.
SOS Mediterranee said some passengers told rescuers that they had been beaten by Libyan-based smugglers and forced to embark on dinghies that do not sail despite big waves.
Separately, an Italian navy ship rescued 49 migrants, Italian state TV reported.
In recent years, warmer weather in the spring has followed an increase in the number of ships launched by migrant traders from Libya.
Last month, SOS Mediterranean staff and a merchant ship spotted several bodies from a wrecked dinghy, believed to be carrying 130 migrants. People on board sought help in the waters off Libya, but no Coast Guard ships from Libya, Italy or Malta helped them, the group said. No survivors were found.
Humanitarian groups are calling on European countries to continue deploying warships in rescue patrols. After hundreds of thousands of rescued migrants, many of whom were not eligible for asylum, the coast guard, navy and border police ships and warships from Italy and some other countries, large-scale rescue operations in the middle Mediterranean north of Libya are over.
Italy has equipped and trained Libyan Coast Guard personnel to rescue migrants in their search and rescue area and to discourage traffickers.
Those intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard are taken ashore and taken to detention centers. Human rights groups and UN agencies have condemned the inhumane treatment of the centers, including beatings, rapes and insufficient meals.
“Europe can no longer remain passive in the face of recurring shipwrecks, knowingly supporting a system of unspeakable abuse by supporting forced returns to Libya,” the SOS Mediterranee statement said.
Earlier in the week, a total of 121 migrants were taken to safety on another charity rescue ship, the Sea-Watch 4, in two separate rescues.
According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, about 9,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea since Friday.
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