The UN Refugee Agency expressed concern about 400 migrants boared by three ships in the Mediterranean, and insists it on their swift and safe disembarkation. (Image: SeaWatch4 courtesy).
A joint statement issued with the International Organization for Migration has underlined that it was a “humanitarian imperative to save lives”.
Italy’s coastguard evacuated 49 people from an overloaded rescue vessel funded by British artist Banksy.
Another rescue boat SeaWatch 4 later took the remaining 150 migrants on board.
The crew of Louise Michel had earlier called for immediate assistance.
The European authorities had not responded adequately, they complained. The Sea Watch 4 crew said late on Saturday, August 29, it was now carrying 350 people who needed to disembark as soon as possible.
A third boat also needs assistance. A group of 27 migrants, including a pregnant woman and children from Libyan coast, have been aboard the Maersk Etienne since their rescue on 5 August.
The UNHCR and the IOM has pointed out that absence of a deal on a regional landing system could not be an excuse to deny vulnerable people safe harbour.
Howeever the main migrant reception center on the island of Lampedusa (Italy) is saturated in the midst of the pandemic, the situation that causses concerns of the local authorities.
“…The national government continues to maintain a scary silence”, Toto Martello, Lampedusa Mayor, said in a statement, explaining that the Lampedusa emergency reception center already houses 1,160 migrants, ten times its maximum capacity. He is “overwhelmed beyond what is humanly possible to endure,” the Mayor underlined.
On the night of August 29 to 30 on Sunday, the island welcomed an old fishing boat that was carrying 367 migrants, according to a figure revised by local authorities.
Carrying 13 women and 33 minors, according to the mayor of Lampedusa, it was at risk of shipwreck due to high winds and was escorted by the Italian coast guard and police to the port, the Italian news agency said. Ansa.
The migrants, whose nationality is not known, were disembarked in small groups in the early hours of the morning and underwent temperature checks, before being taken to a hot spot center.
When they disembarked in the port, awaited them a demonstration organized by the League.
Since Friday August 28, around thirty small boats, mainly from the Tunisian coast, had already reached the island by disembarking some 500 migrants, according to the Italian press.
An unprecedented situation, according to the Mayor of Lampedusa.
Referring to “an unprecedented situation”, the mayor of Lampedusa announced the summons of representatives of the island’s professional associations to declare “a general strike” from Monday 31 August onwards.
“If a fishing boat of this size with hundreds of people comes here and no one notices, it means there are no controls in the Mediterranean. But what are the military ships doing? We are not in war, why are they not used for security interventions at sea and to transfer migrants? ” he asks himself.
Toto Martello also denounced the fact that the army was struggling to prevent migrants from escaping, despite strict protocols linked to the Covid-19 epidemic. Fearing for the sanitary situation of the island, the mayor warned: “People in danger must be helped, but humanitarian reception needs rules because here, now, we are in danger”.
The president of the Sicily region, Nello Musumeci, on Sunday, August 30 demanded from the government, via his Facebook account, a meeting of “humanitarian and health crisis”.
“Lampedusa can no longer do it. Sicily cannot continue to pay the indifference of Brussels and the silence of Rome”, announced the elected regional president pointing his criticism at the European Union institutions.
The Mayor himself is under fire of the local inhabitants: «Lampedusa, the wind is changing: the anger of the Lampedusans explodes … against the Mayor Salvatore Martello, first responsible for the indiscriminate invasion: “Enough illegal immigrants NOW!», says the tweet, explaining higly emotional scenes on the island.
The president Musumeci had issued a decree a week ago to close all reception centers for migrants in Sicily (of which Lampedusa is part), denouncing hygiene conditions incompatible with the Covid-19 epidemic sanitary norms, an approach rejected by the Italian justice.
The Italian coastguard also transported 49 people considered fragile, mainly women and children, to Lampedusa on Saturday, August 30, who had been rescued in the Mediterranean by the Louise Michel, chartered by the street artist Banksy.
The other 150 passengers of the Louise Michel were all transferred on Saturday evening to the Sea-Watch 4, which now totals 350 passengers.
According to the Twitter account of this boat chartered by the German NGO Sea-Watch and the organization Médecins sans frontières (MSF), migrants are being treated by their medical teams for “fuel burns, dehydration, hypothermia and traumatic injuries”.
The ship, named after a 19th-century French anarchist, is decorated with graffiti by British artist Banksy depicting a little girl in a life jacket wielding a heart-shaped buoy.
Its captain is Pia Klemp, a German human rights activist, known to have driven several other rescue ships, including the Sea-Watch 3. She is still under investigation by the Italian courts, in particular for “assissting the illegal immigration”.
Banksy, who maintains the mystery of his identity, explained in a video posted on the internet on Saturday, August 29, that he bought the boat because “the EU authorities are deliberately ignoring distress calls from non-Europeans”.