Italian coastguard units rescued 539 migrants from a fishing boat drifting off the coast of Lampedusa, the BBC said on Saturday. There were women and children on board.
The migrants will go to a special center, which, according to the BBC, was originally intended to accommodate less than 300 people. Currently, this number is five times higher.
The packed boat was escorted to Lampedusa by two Italian coastguard units and a Financial Guard patrol boat (Guardia di Finanza). The island’s mayor, Toto Martello, said Saturday’s rescue operation was “one of the biggest landings recently”.
Women and children were among the migrants who drifted by boat in the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. Some men, the BBC reported, had traces of violence on their bodies. Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into the matter.
Representative of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, Alida Serrachieri, told the BBC that many migrants had been attacked in Libya while they waited for a fishing boat to go to Europe.
Lampedusa is one of the main destinations for migrants (mainly from Tunisia and Libya) wishing to reach European countries. In May, a dozen or so fishing boats arrived on the Italian island in just a few hours, carrying a total of about one and a half thousand newcomers.
Main photo source: CONCETTA RIZZO / PAP / EPA