Europe migrant crisis
image copyrightMaersk Tankers/Reuters
A group of migrants rescued by a Danish tanker in the Mediterranean have been allowed to land in Italy after more than 40 days at sea.
The 27 people – including one pregnant woman – set off from Libya on 2 August.
Danish tanker the Maersk Etienne picked them up shortly afterwards when their vessel started to sink.
But the ship was denied permission to dock in any country for more than a month. The migrants finally disembarked in Sicily on Saturday night.
On Friday the group had been transferred to a rescue vessel operated by the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans. They were brought to the port of Pozzallo.
Mediterranea wrote on Twitter.
According to the ship’s operator Maersk Tankers, Maltese authorities asked the crew to pick up the struggling migrants. Malta has denied it made the request, and said the rescue took place outside their territorial waters.
This led to a stand-off, with Italy and Libya also refusing to take the group, Maersk said.
“The crew have done their best to make life as acceptable as possible but it’s not conditions you can offer anyone for this extended period of time,” Maersk technical director Tommy Thomassen told the BBC.
Both the crew and the rescued people became increasingly frustrated as supplies began to run low and governments refused to allow them to dock.
The NGO said the migrant were in “serious psycho-physical conditions” after 38 days on broad.
Last week the UN – along with the International Organization for Migration and the International Chamber of Shipping – called the “immediate disembarkation” of the rescued people.
Some 19,400 migrants have landed on Italy’s shores so far this year, compared with about 5,200 in the same period last year, according to official data cited by Reuters news agency.
The UN says 40,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea in 2020 and more than 400 people have died or have gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean from north Africa.
The question of how to deal with the mass arrivals of migrants, mainly to Italy and Greece, has divided the EU for years.
Italy and Greece have accused wealthier northern countries of failing to do more, while a number of central and eastern nations are openly resistant to the idea of taking in a quota of migrants.
The European Commission will present a a new pact on migration and asylum on 30 September.
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