Italian ship with 151 rescued migrants docks in Sicily

November 04, 2019

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A man kneels as he disembarks from the ship.—AP
A man kneels as he disembarks from the ship.—AP

ROME: An Italian offshore supply vessel has brought 151 migrants to Sicily after rescuing them in waters off Libya a day earlier.

The Asso Trenta docked on Sunday at Pozzallo with the migrants. It wasn’t immediately known if they would stay in Italy or be distributed among other European Union countries.

Hours earlier, a German charity’s rescue boat, Alan Kurdi, had disembarked 88 migrants at Taranto on the Italian mainland. Under an EU-brokered deal, 67 of them will go to four other countries, while the others will stay in Italy.

A Taranto official, Gabriella Ficocelli, told the Italian news agency ANSA the migrants included five unaccompanied minors who were “tired and tried by the voyage.”

They disembarked eight days after being rescue in the Mediterranean Sea from Libyan-based traffickers’ unseaworthy vessels.

Greece shifts migrants from overcrowded islands

The transfer of migrants from overcrowded camps on the islands to the Greek mainland continued over the weekend, with authorities saying 415 arrived at the port of Eleusis west of Athens Saturday afternoon and another 380 expected around noon on Sunday.

The migrants had been living on the island of Lesbos, at the Moria camp where almost 15,000 migrants still live in a space designed for 3,000. They were being transported by Greek Navy ships usually used to transport tanks.

A senior government official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about certain aspects of government policy said that the government plans to move 5,000 migrants to the mainland over the next 15 days.

The official said the migrants will be housed in hotels, as the peak tourist season is over. He said some parts of the mainland, such as northern Greece, will be exempted because there are many migrant camps, or hotspots, there already.

He added that the government would cap the number of migrants at 0.8 percent of the local population per prefecture. He did not mention whether more permanent locations would be used in the future.

Greece is divided into 54 prefectures, but about half of them would be exempted from the migrant resettlement scheme, including all islands.

Several of Greece’s eastern islands, all close to the Turkish coast, as well as the land border with Turkey in the northeast, are migrants’ preferred entry points.

The large presence of migrants on those islands about 35,000 in all has aroused the hostility of parts of the local population. Local authorities complain the islands are turning into dumping grounds for migrants while the processing of asylum requests is very slow and expulsions of those deemed ineligible for asylum very few. The government has promised to speed up both processes.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2019