'Exhausted' migrants rescued from ship begin four-day journey to Spain

The search-and-rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean Sea since Sunday ...

Posted: Jun 14, 2018 3:37 PM
Updated: Jun 14, 2018 3:37 PM

The search-and-rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean Sea since Sunday began its roughly 800-mile journey to Spain on Tuesday evening after transferring more than 500 rescued migrants to Italian Coast Guard and naval ships.

According to aid organization SOS M-diterran-e, 250 people were transferred to the Italian Navy's Orione and a further 274 to the Coast Guard's Dattilo ship Tuesday. The Aquarius -- which had been stranded between Malta and the Italian island of Sicily since Sunday -- now has just 106 survivors on board.

The move was part of an Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) plan to transfer hundreds of the 630 migrants to two smaller vessels, in a bid to ease pressure on the overcrowded Aquarius.

All three ships will now proceed to Valencia, Spain, after the Spanish government on Monday agreed to take in the migrants who were rescued over the weekend.

SOS originally said 629 people had been rescued, but revised that figure to 630 on Tuesday following a recount during the transfers.

The Aquarius, which was carrying more than 120 unaccompanied minors and six pregnant women, was left stranded in the Mediterranean after Italy's hardline interior minister and leader of the anti-immigration League party refused to allow it to dock on Sunday.

Aid organizations, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS M-diterran-e, which operate the rescue ship Aquarius, have been critical of the Italian MRCC plan, warning that the "already exhausted" migrants would be forced to spend four more days at sea.

"The better option would be to disembark the rescued people in the nearest port after which they can be transferred to Spain or other safe countries for further care and legal processing," MSF said in a tweet Tuesday.

Aloys Vimard, MSF coordinator on board the Aquarius, said in a statement that the medical situation "remains stable for now, but people are exhausted and stressed and there is a high risk of worsening medical conditions and sanitation if disembarkation is delayed further."

Some of the pregnant women on board have already been transported to Lampedusa, an island in southern Italy, and from there will probably travel to Palermo in Sicily, the Italian Transport Minister's press office said in a statement.

The operation comes as SeaWatch, a German aid organization also conducting rescue missions in the Mediterranean, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that it was heading toward a shipwreck 20 miles off the coast of Libya.

It said the US Navy had already rescued 41 people from the water, and reported another 12 dead people.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, an Italian Coast Guard boat carrying 937 migrants docked in Catania, Sicily.

The migrants on board the Italian Coast Guard boat -- along with two people who had died -- were pulled from the sea off the coast of Libya, Coast Guard spokesman Cosimo Nicastro told CNN.

Supplies sent to desperate boat

Italy on Tuesday morning also sent much-needed supplies to the Aquarius, Jana Ciernioch, spokeswoman from SOS M-diterran-e, told CNN.

A number of people are in need of medical treatment, including 21 people who have suffered severe chemical burns after sitting in a mix of salt water and spilled fuel in the bottom of rubber boats for many hours, Vimard said.

The Aquarius now has enough fuel to reach the Spanish city of Valencia, some 800 miles away, according to Ciernioch. Speaking from Berlin, she told CNN that unsettled weather in the Western Mediterranean could be an issue in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the director general of the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), William Lacy Swing, tweeted that while he was glad that Spain had stepped forward to defuse the crisis, "I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened."

Victory for Italy, uncertainty for migrants

After Spanish Prime Minister Pedro S-nchez announced Monday that the ship and its passengers would be welcome in Valencia, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was quick to celebrate on social media.

"VICTORY! 629 migrants on board of Aquarius ship, Spain-bound, our first goal has been reached!" he wrote on Facebook.

The move comes as the number of migrants arriving on Spanish shores continues to grow. Migrant arrivals to Spain have increased by 50% so far in 2018 compared to last year, while Italy has seen around a 75% decline, according to the International Organization for Migrants (IOM). In the first week of June alone, 561 migrants arrived in Spain by sea.

During the recent federal election campaign that led to Italy's new government -- a coalition between the anti-immigrant League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement -- Salvini promoted his party with an "Italians first" slogan and pledged to deport half a million migrants.

Salvini's rhetoric has softened slightly since he took office, but on a visit to Sicily last week, he declared that Italy "cannot be Europe's refugee camp."

However, he is not without critics, and on Sunday several Italian mayors defied Salvini and suggested they would be prepared to welcome the Aquarius into their port.

Anxious wait for migrants

Meanwhile, the hundreds of migrants stranded at sea face an anxious wait. Annelise Borges, a Euronews and NBC journalist currently on board the Aquarius, told CNN Monday that "everyone is extremely hot and very tired."

Many were also worried that they could be returned to Libya. "The fear is so present, so palpable," Borges said.

There are no showers or sinks for migrants on the Aquarius, and rescue workers use a disinfectant spray on people's hands before they eat. Supplies of drinking water are unlimited as the ship has its own water-purification system, but the passengers were surviving mostly on energy biscuits, prepackaged warm rice, tea and bread.

Women and children sleep below deck, watched over by a midwife, while the men sleep on the open deck, covered only with tarpaulin.

The Mediterranean remains the world's deadliest migration route, despite sharp falls in the number of people trying to reach Europe by boat. That drop is partly ascribed to a deal struck between Italy and Libya last year, in which the southern European country pledged to bolster Libya's coast guard so it could spot departing migrant boats and house migrants attempting to cross.

As of June 6, there had been an estimated 785 deaths on the route this year, the IOM said, with the majority of the 33,400 migrants and refugees arriving through Greece and Italy.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 112626

Reported Deaths: 3520
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20832759
Lake10292318
Elkhart6415109
St. Joseph6156102
Allen6029200
Hamilton4724109
Vanderburgh344530
Hendricks2673122
Monroe247436
Tippecanoe226913
Johnson2268123
Clark215056
Porter207845
Cass19329
Delaware188261
Vigo178123
Madison159575
LaPorte137739
Floyd131461
Howard128563
Kosciusko120217
Warrick119936
Bartholomew115357
Marshall98924
Dubois95418
Boone95146
Hancock91143
Grant89133
Noble89132
Henry77024
Wayne74414
Jackson7409
Morgan70038
Shelby66529
Daviess64427
Dearborn63228
LaGrange63111
Clinton59212
Harrison56024
Putnam53710
Lawrence50528
Montgomery50521
Knox5019
Gibson4854
White48114
DeKalb45611
Decatur45439
Miami4263
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3862
Steuben3707
Scott35610
Sullivan33012
Jennings31212
Posey3060
Franklin29925
Clay2935
Orange28524
Ripley2838
Carroll27013
Wabash2618
Washington2611
Starke2537
Whitley2526
Wells2482
Adams2453
Jefferson2443
Fulton2342
Huntington2223
Tipton21722
Spencer2153
Perry21413
Randolph2087
Jay1730
Newton17111
Owen1651
Martin1640
Rush1524
Pike1401
Vermillion1260
Fountain1182
Pulaski1151
Blackford1133
Crawford1030
Brown1023
Parke941
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland700
Warren391
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 145850

Reported Deaths: 4635
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26242603
Cuyahoga17196644
Hamilton12850309
Montgomery7583152
Lucas7187358
Butler5727102
Summit5172249
Marion307247
Mahoning3002279
Warren294748
Stark2771168
Pickaway263444
Lorain227786
Delaware216620
Fairfield203850
Columbiana192180
Licking187562
Trumbull1852131
Clark175938
Wood173772
Clermont165520
Lake158649
Medina143939
Allen138869
Miami138049
Greene137632
Portage109466
Mercer107717
Tuscarawas91620
Erie91244
Wayne90866
Ross86123
Richland80819
Madison78712
Darke76839
Belmont71227
Geauga70547
Hancock67410
Ashtabula65148
Athens6292
Lawrence61618
Shelby5909
Auglaize5709
Putnam55823
Sandusky55520
Huron5337
Union5002
Scioto4746
Ottawa46630
Seneca45314
Preble42213
Muskingum3802
Holmes3777
Jefferson3284
Logan3013
Henry30012
Champaign2943
Perry2889
Defiance28710
Clinton28213
Brown2812
Knox28015
Morrow2522
Washington25123
Hardin25013
Fulton2371
Jackson2344
Coshocton23111
Crawford2276
Fayette2266
Ashland2244
Highland2203
Wyandot20212
Williams2013
Gallia18612
Meigs17210
Pike1670
Hocking1619
Guernsey1578
Carroll1517
Adams1234
Van Wert1143
Monroe10918
Paulding1050
Harrison622
Morgan470
Vinton453
Noble270
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 59°
Huntington
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 59°
Decatur
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
Mostly Sunny Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events