Rome: Nearly 600 migrants were saved on a crowded boat that was in distress off the coast of Sicily on Saturday, according to a tweet from the charity Doctors without Borders (MSF).
"After three hours of operation, the 599 survivors, including women and children, are now safely aboard... and are being cared for by the medical team," MSF tweeted. Its vessel, the Geo Barents, was engaged in training exercises when it was contacted to assist in the rescue.
According to the Italian government's instructions, the migrants will disembark in the southern port of Bari, according to MSF, which added that the journey would take about 40 hours.
Charities claim that the Giorgia Meloni administration in Italy, which has a tough stance against illegal immigration, frequently assigns ports too far from the locations of rescue operations.
According to data from the interior ministry, more than 47,000 migrant landings have been reported in Italy so far this year, up from roughly 18,000 during the same period in 2022.
According to the Italian Coast Guard, one of its vessels saved nearly 1,100 migrants from two fishing boats in distress in its search-and-rescue area in two separate operations.
A third boat with 27 migrants on board that was having trouble was not involved, according to the Italian coast guard. According to the report, merchant ships assisted that boat and "although initially contacted by the Italian rescue centre, they (the cargo ships) then received instructions directly from the Libyan authorities, as part of an event occurring inside the area of responsibility" of Libya.
The Italian coast guard claimed in a statement on Thursday that the Libyans "legitimately took on the coordination" of the rescue and denied any involvement in any "pushing back" of the migrants to Libya.