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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Humanitarian ship 'Open Arms' brings 255 migrants to Sicily

At least 71 unaccompanied minors were onboard [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 November, 2020

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At least 255 migrants rescued from boats in distress were handed over to Italian authorities after being assisted by the humanitarian Open Arms ship.
The humanitarian ship Open Arms reached the coast of the Italian island of Sicily on Saturday and transferred 255 migrants to Italian authorities, the Spanish NGO said on Twitter.

A total of 184 adults and 71 unaccompanied minors from 20 African nations, were taken aboard two Italian boats where they will undergo quarantine to ensure they are not carrying the coronavirus, the group said.

The Open Arms ship had rescued them from boats in distress on the water on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At least five other migrants had died after an overcrowded rubber dinghy overturned off the coast of Libya, according to the NGO.

A six-month old baby also died, despite the efforts of the medical team onboard the Open Arms.

There has been a marked rise this year in the number of migrants seeking to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats, most of which embark from Libya or Tunisia.

Warm weather over the past week has encouraged more migrants fleeing war and poverty to make the perilous trip across the Mediterranean, but about 100 people drowned on Thursday alone. 

The the UN's International Organisation for Migration said that so far this year, at least 900 people had drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores - some due to delays in rescue.

Read also: Libya arrests senior coastguard official over human trafficking, drowning of migrants

More than 11,000 others have been returned to Libya, it said, "putting them at risk of facing human rights violations, detention, abuse, trafficking and exploitation".

Human traffickers have taken advantage of persistent violence in Libya since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, turning the country into a key corridor for migrants fleeing war and poverty in desperate bids to reach Europe.

While many have drowned at sea, thousands have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard, which has been backed by Italy and the EU, and returned to Libya.

They mostly end up in detention, often in horrific conditions.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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