Nearly 300 rescued migrants reach southern Italian port

Most of the migrants were from Gambia, Egypt and Libya, according to the rescuers

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ROME (AP) — Nearly 300 migrants disembarked in the southern Italian port of Taranto on Saturday after their rescue at sea in five different operations by the crew of a humanitarian vessel operated by Doctors Without Borders.

About half of the 293 rescued passengers on the Geo Barents were unaccompanied minors, according to the operators of the mission.

Some 35 migrants including 3 children, mostly from Syria, sit in a boat in International waters off Malta as they are approached by operators of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, early Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)

Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter that the men, women and children faced “harrowing journeys, abuse, and detention in Libya” before they set out to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They were rescued in international waters off Libya and Malta, it said.

Most of the migrants were from Gambia, Egypt and Libya, according to the rescuers.

Italian authorities assigned Geo Barents the port in Taranto in the southeast “heel” of the country nine days after the initial rescue.

“The time needed before obtaining a port for disembarking is still too long. It should be assigned immediately after the rescue operation,” Riccardo Gatti of Doctors Without Borders, who was aboard the ship.

In a separate operation early Saturday, another humanitarian rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, saved about 35 migrants, including three children, most of them from Syria, in international waters off Malta.

Italy’s new far-right premier, Giorgia Meloni, who took office on Saturday, vowed during her campaign to crack down on illegal immigration.

One of her main coalition partners is League leader Matteo Salvini. As Italy’s interior minister in 2018-19, Salvini sought to stop rescue boats from bringing migrants to Italian ports. He contends he was safeguarding his country but was prosecuted in Italy for that policy.

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