German rescue boat with 800 migrants reaches Sicilian port

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Associated Press

ROME (AP) — 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.

Many of the passengers came from countries in West Africa, Egypt or Morocco, said Giovanna di Benedetto, an official from Save the Children in Italy.

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.

Earlier Sunday, in waters off Lampedusa, an Italian Coast Guard boat pulled up alongside Ocean Viking to evacuate two brothers, both minors, whose health conditions had worsened, SOS Mediterranee tweeted. Four others were evacuated on Saturday.