Hundreds of migrants, rescued in the Mediterranean by a German humanitarian organisation, have arrived a the port of Taranto in southern Italy.
The 444 migrants were rescued over the course of the last week in four separate operations carred out by the “Sea-Watch 3” ship which finally got permission to dock from Italian authorities after days spent at sea in sweltering temperatures that reached +40°C.
The intense heat had caused the medical evacuation of a pregnant woman, accompanied by her husband and son, as well as two parents and their child with burns.
Among the migrants aboard the Sea-Watch 3 were 117 unaccompanied minors and 35 women, four of them pregnant.
Italian officials said the migrants were going through a registration process and receiving medical care before going on to their initial reception centres.
Italy’s interior ministry says between 1 January and 22 July some 34,000 people arrived in the country by sea.
This is an increase on last year when 25,500 migrants arrived; and a sharp jump from 2020 when just 10,900 migrants arrived.
This new wave of migration is expected to be a key topic in Italy’s snap election on 25 September. Recent polls suggest that a bloc of conservative parties, led by the far-right Brothers of Italy, could win a majority.
Brothers of Italy is headed by Giorgia Meloni and supports calls for zero-tolerance to illegal migration as well as renegotiating EU treaties on the matter.
NGOs have rescued hundreds of people in the last few weeks trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya. The good weather is likely a contributing factor, as it offers near perfect conditions for the sea crossing from northern Africa to Europe.