German rescue boat with 800 migrants reaches Sicilian port

A German humanitarian ship with more than 800 rescued migrants aboard has steamed into a Sicilian port after receiving permission by Italian authorities following days of waiting at sea

ROME -- A German humanitarian ship with more than 800 rescued migrants, including 15 very young children, steamed into a Sicilian port on Sunday after being granted permission by Italian authorities following days of waiting in the Mediterranean Sea.

The charity group Sea-Eye said the vessel Sea-Eye 4 was assigned to the port of Trapani, in western Sicily, on Saturday evening. Most of the adults were to be transferred to other ships for preventative quarantine against COVID-19, while some 160 minors, including babies and other children younger than 4, were to be taken to shelters on land.

Shouts of joy from those aboard Sea-Eye 4 could be heard on Trapani's dock as the vessel drew near, SkyTG24 TV reported.

About half of the migrants were rescued from a sinking wooden boat on Nov. 4, while the other passengers had been plucked to safety from the sea in separate operations.

Sea-Eye officials lamented that Malta, a European Union island nation in the central Mediterranean, hadn’t responded to the wooden boat’s distress signal in its own search area.

Meanwhile, another charity ship, Ocean Viking, with 306 migrants aboard, many of them feeling ill in rough seas, was still awaiting assignment of a port near Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island south of Sicily, said the humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee, which operates the ship.

U.N. refugee agencies have long denounced the practice of torture in detention camps in Libya, where the migrants live, often for weeks or months, until human traffickers arrange their passage aboard flimsy boats.

The number of migrants crossing the dangerous central Mediterranean has surged this year to more than 54,000. Still, the numbers are dramatically below those of 2014-2017, when 120,000-180,000 people reached Italy each year, often in rickety smugglers’ boats.

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