Almost 1,000 migrants rescued over weekend as Italy seeks new solutions to migrant influx



Almost 1,000 migrants heading to Italy were rescued on Sunday amid an ongoing surge of arrivals. A new commissioner has been tasked with taking care of arrivals – but solutions to stem the migrant influx seem elusive.

The surge in migrant arrivals from Africa’s coasts to Italian shores continued on April 16, with almost 1,000 people arriving following various rescue operations.

The record number of arrivals kicked off on Friday already, when the non-profit organisation Sea-Watch discovered a boat in international waters which reportedly was drifting with no power. Sea-Watch alerted the Life Support private rescue vessel, which reached the scene and rescued 55 people from the boat.

The Life Support was assigned the Marina di Carrara port for disembarkation, which is located a three-days journey away from the spot were the rescue was carried out.

“The port assigned is about 50 hours further away than the (nearby) Sicilian port. Onboard are people subjected to unheard-of violence, torture, and extortion. Keeping them additional hours at sea is unjustified spitefulness,” Life Support mission chief Emanuele Nannini said.

Those rescued during that operation reportedly originate from countries as far away as Ivory Coast, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria, Palestine, Sudan, and Somalia, where reports of human rights abuse are rife.

Hundreds of migrants in danger

Then on Saturday, 221 people were rescued by the Italian coast guard off Lampedusa from another unseaworthy boat.

That same afternoon, the Alarm Phone NGO received reports of a wooden boat being in danger with about 30 people onboard. The charity contacted Italian and Maltese authorities, demanding no delays in rescuing the migrants in distress, according to its tweet. The migrants were eventually rescued and taken to Malta along with another group of 30 migrants found and rescued in the Maltese search and rescue (SAR) zone.

Then on April 16, a fishing boat in distress at sea with about 600 migrants on board was rescued by the Italian Coast Guard about 270 kilometers south of southeastern Sicily in the Italian SAR.

All rescue operations were reportedly made increasingly more difficult by bad weather conditions.

New commissioner to tackle migrant influx

The head of Italy’s civil liberties and immigration department Valerio Valenti has meanwhile been named commissioner delegate to coordinate the state of emergency, which was declared last week in response to the high number of arrivals in the country.

Valenti will be in charge of managing both initial and secondary reception facilities in 14 regions as well as in the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano.

Only four regions, which are run by the Democratic Party, have not signed the relevant agreement will therefore not be placed under his responsibility: Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Campania and Puglia.

The new commissioner will have to concentrate on finding ways to increase the capacity of the country’s migrant reception system — with a particular focus on hotspots and centers for migrant reception in temporary facilities, where they will be provided with food, lodging, clothing, health care and language assistance.

Valenti has also been tasked with identifying the best solutions to ensure uninterrupted maritime and air services from the hotspots to the areas of the selected centers and reception facilities.