A migrant rescue ship with 106 people on board disembarked in southern Italy on Saturday.
The disembarkation took place in the port of Brindisi, and involved 40 minors, some of which unaccompanied, said German NGO Sea-Eye which has carried out the rescue operation.
The migrants were found and saved on Tuesday in international waters southwest of the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, according to the NGO.
On their website, Sea Eye noted: ‘On the afternoon of Boxing Day (26th December 2023), the crew of the sea rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 rescued a total of 106 people from two different boats. Both boats were spotted by the ship’s crew itself. The distress cases occurred in the Maltese search and rescue zone, south of Lampedusa. The ship’s head of mission then informed the responsible authorities’.
The youngest of them are five and six years old and are accompanied by their parents. A 13-year-old boy from Guinea and a 14-year-old boy from Mali fled alone. The people on both boats stated that they had fled towards Europe via Tunisia on Tuesday night (26th December 2023). They had fled from Eritrea, Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Gambia and Senegal, among others.
Official data provided by the Interior Ministry showed Italy registered over 155,700 people irregular arrivals by sea this year up to Dec. 29.
The overall figure marked a sharp increase compared to 103,846 people reaching the country by sea during the same period in 2022.
Italy is the main entry gate for migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe for better life conditions and safety through the so-called central Mediterranean Sea corridor.
Departing from northern African countries, and especially Libya and Tunisia, migrants and refugees undergo the perilous sea crossing on board of unsafe boats and inflatables.
While a minority of them are able to reach Italian shores on their own, others are intercepted and assisted by rescue ships mainly operated by NGOs, Italian authorities, and European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex.
Many still face tragic shipwrecks before being rescued, due to dangerous waters and poor conditions of their vessels, making the central Mediterranean one of the deadliest routes for migrants headed to Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 28,505 people have gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014, and over 22,500 of them disappeared while crossing the central Mediterranean.
Yet, the central route remained “the busiest migratory route in 2023, with more than 152,200 detections reported by national (Italian) authorities in the first 11 months … the highest total on this route for this period since 2016,” Frontex said in November.
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