Italy: More than 1400 people saved from drowning

In several operations, Italy's coast guard has rescued up to 1,400 people drifting offshore on overcrowded boats.

In the weeks before, private rescue ships had also brought hundreds of migrants ashore.

More than 1,400 migrants have been saved from drowning in several operations off Italy’s Mediterranean coast. They were on overcrowded ships, according to the Italian Coast Guard. On board a sailing boat in distress off the Calabria region were 47 people, including two children, who urgently needed medical help. They were rescued by a Coast Guard motorboat early Tuesday.

Another Coast Guard vessel picked up about 590 migrants from a fishing boat and later around 650 people from another fishing boat, the statement said. A Coast Guard motorboat and an Italian border police vessel also came to the aid of a fourth vessel carrying 130 migrants.

One of the most dangerous escape routes

The authorities did not provide any information on the nationalities of the passengers or the routes that the ships took. In general, however, many boats carrying migrants spotted off the Ionian Sea depart from the Turkish coast. Smugglers often launch overcrowded and unseaworthy boats there.

The Mediterranean is one of the most dangerous escape routes in the world. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), around 1,100 people have died or are missing since the beginning of the year attempting the crossing. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. At the end of May, rescue ships had again increasingly docked in Italian ports with people who had rescued them from distress at sea.

From the “Geo Barents” 606 men, women and children went ashore in the port of Bari, said the aid organization “Doctors Without Borders”, which operates the rescue ship. The crew of the “Humanity 1” of the German organization SOS Humanity also brought almost 90 refugees to the city of Livorno.

“Sea-Eye 4” has been fixed

In some cases, Italian authorities had again temporarily detained German sea rescue ships. The measures were taken by the crews of the “Mare*Go” and the “Sea-Eye 4” at the beginning of June. According to its own statements, the “Mare*Go” had rescued 37 Mediterranean migrants from distress at sea. They landed on Lampedusa, although the authorities had assigned the ship the Sicilian port of Trapani.

The ship “Sea-Eye 4” of the aid organization of the same name, on the other hand, brought 49 people to Ortona who had been brought on board during two missions. After the first rescue, the “Sea-Eye 4” should have headed for Ortona immediately, the coast guard said. According to the coast guard, both aid organizations thus violated the law that stipulates the arrest of a ship and heavy fines. With this law, the government in Rome had tightened the procedure against private sea rescuers.

Asylum policy should be an issue at meetings with Scholz

In Italy, the arrival of thousands of migrants is being discussed because of the recent high migration figures via the Mediterranean route. According to official figures from the Ministry of the Interior in Rome, more than 50,000 people have reached Italy on boats since the beginning of the year – in the same period last year there were around 19,600. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is resolutely opposed to uncontrolled migration across the Mediterranean and would prefer not to allow ships with migrants to dock at all.

European asylum policy should also be an issue today when Meloni receives Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Rome. Parallel to the Chancellor’s trip, the interior ministers of the European Union are trying to get a major reform of the European asylum system off the ground in Luxembourg. It is about a much more rigid handling of migrants with no prospects of staying and a duty to support the particularly heavily burdened member states at the EU’s external borders, which also includes Italy.

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