Disembarking from Ocean Viking , one of the SOS MEditerranee rescue ships

Almost 600 migrants come ashore in Italy after being rescued by SOS Mediterranee

By Region News The Islands

Hundreds of migrants rescued by SOS Mediterranee disembarked on Friday (9th July) in Augusta, Sicily. Rome-based maritime authorities agreed to give their ship a port.

The Ocean Viking vessel, operated by SOS Mediterranee, carried 572 people, including around 180 minors. The European NGO picked them up in six separate operations in Maltese and Libyan search and rescue areas.

After asking the European Union to find a safe port for the migrants, the group said the situation onboard was deteriorating due to tension and exhaustion among those rescued.

“This news brings us relief and gives these people irrepressible joy,” said Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, referring to the Ocean Viking being able to dock.

Tensions rising onboard

In a press release dated 8th July, SOS Mediterranee said, “The situation onboard the Ocean Viking is worsening by the hour. There is no time for discussions behind closed doors. A solution must be found immediately, and a Place of Safety designated for the 572 survivors onboard.”

The people on board became distressed not knowing what would happen to them, or when. SOS Mediterranee also stated, “Yesterday evening, a man in acute psychological distress jumped overboard. He explained his desperate gesture by saying that he could have held on should he had known when the disembarkation would take place, but that he “could not take the uncertainty anymore”.

The NGO also said they would run out of pre-packed foods by Saturday.

Relief was immense among the rescued when they heard the news they could disembark.

Migrants rejoice upon hearing the ship can dock in Italy. Image: SOS Mediterranee
Migrants rejoice upon hearing the ship can dock in Italy.

Migrants tested for Covid-19

SOS Mediterranee said all migrants would have COVID-19 tests after disembarking the boat.

Migrant boat departures from North Africa towards Europe have picked up in 2021. Scores of people have died in recent weeks following shipwrecks as they tried to reach Italy.  

22,900 migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year. This compares to almost 7,700 in the same period last year, Italian Interior Ministry data shows.

Several charity boats have been impounded in Italy in recent months after officials reported irregularities onboard.

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