Hundreds of migrants originating from Lebanon dock in Italy after 2 weeks at sea
A rescue vessel carrying 398 migrants — many of whom originated from Lebanon — was allowed to dock in Italy after almost two weeks at sea, as humanitarians warned that conditions on the boat reached a breaking point.
"The situation on board is quite tense. 398 people haven't showered in days, haven't been able to wash any clothes, and water and food have been rationed. About half of the 55 children on board are sick and infectious disease has continued to spread on board," Petra Krischok, the press officer for SOS Humanity, told The New Arab.
The rescue vessel Humanity 1 was allowed to dock in Taranto, Italy after issuing 18 requests for a safe harbour and waiting for twelve days. Disembarking will take up to two days, with those in need of medical treatment leaving the ship first. At least one person on board needs treatment for a gunshot wound and another for internal bleeding.
The migrants came from four different rescue operations and included individuals from Egypt, Gambia, Mali and Syria. Almost 180 minors were on board the ship, most of them unaccompanied.
Also onboard the ship were at least 207 migrants originating from Lebanon, who ran out of fuel and water in Maltese waters and were ultimately rescued by the Humanity 1 on 13 September. On 18 September, Italian authorities evacuated three infants and their families whose mothers no longer were able to breastfeed.
Emigration from Lebanon has increased since its 2019 economic crisis, described by The World Bank as "one of the world's worst since 1850." Boats holding Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians regularly depart for Europe from Lebanese shores.
Irregular migration in the Mediterranean Sea, in general, has been particularly intense this summer, as a combination of global inflation, food crisis and climate change pushes migrants from the Global South to Europe. The conditions of migrants' journeys are often fraught with danger, with rough waters, overloaded ships and inadequate provisions.
Despite the dangers to migrants, activists say that nearby authorities have been slow in responding to distress signals in what they deem a deliberate strategy to deter further migration.
"The precarious situation on the Humanity 1, which lasted for days, could have been avoided if the authorities had immediately assigned a place of safety for the survivors after the rescues, as required by maritime law," Mirka Schäfer, the Human Rights Observer for SOS Humanity aboard the rescue vessel, said.