Italy is once again a starting point towards a new life for the 410 migrants rescued last week by
who began to disembark this Friday in Augusta, southern Sicily.
The joy of touching port after days waiting to see land, the excitement at the farewell and the fear of the unknown were felt in the atmosphere of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ship before the Italian authorities began the regulatory inspection and proceeded with covid-19 tests, a mandatory requirement before transfer to another ship where they will have to quarantine.
Before leaving the
, some migrants put their hands to their hearts and, in different languages, they only had words of thanks.
Now begins his other stage of the trip in Europe.
A new lifeline in the Mediterranean
From searching for oil in the Gulf of Mexico to saving migrants in the central Mediterranean
The news that the Italian authorities had granted a port to
caused an explosion of joy on the deck the day before.
Some had noticed that the ship had veered towards land and were waiting.
"We need good news," said the Sudanese Baba.
While some jumped up and hugged each other when they heard the long-awaited announcement, one of Baba's compatriot, John, was silent, thoughtful, his hands propped behind his back.
This is John's seventh attempt to reach Europe. He has been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, by the militias, he has suffered mistreatment, he has had to pay thousands of euros until now. He is a young, tall, strong and kind man who these days missed being able to charge his phone to listen to music and get away a bit. He is excited and walks away. “I have lost three years of my life in Libya. My head is gone… I miss my family, ”she later regrets. His story repeats itself over and over again among the survivors. Ethiopians, Bangladeshis, Sudanese, Ivorians ... Each one left their country for a different reason, but most were caught by the networks of traffickers at some point on the intricate journey that ends in Libya for an indefinite time before being able to embark for Europe. They have been lucky.Others did not survive the stay in that Maghreb country.
Photogallery: The 'Geo Barents' is empty
"Thank you for everything, thank you", said goodbye to the Ethiopian Elías, who has helped with the translations from English to Amharic during the voyage, with the 56 compatriots on board. The medical staff wishes you luck. "Thank you, thank you for the rescue," said Dawda, a 16-year-old from The Gambia who has written that message on the back of the white T-shirt that was given to him when he arrived at the ship. He is a bit uneasy about the uncertainty of what is coming. "I'll be fine," he says optimistically. The parents of Aimán, 3 years old, who has been running around the deck of the ship these days, extend their hands with a big smile and nod their heads. But some experiences are difficult to forget. In a corner, accompanied at all times by MSF personnel, there is a Bangladeshi boy who is crying with his eyes on the ground. You don't want to leaveHe is afraid of being a victim of the hardships he has been through. A person who speaks your language awaits you on land and accompanies you in the registration process with the authorities.
Migrants rescued by the ship of the medical organization MSF descend the gangway of the ship in the port of Augusta (Sicily) on June 18, 2021.ANTONIO PARRINELLO / Reuters
Throughout Friday morning, some booths had been temporarily installed in the port to proceed with the registration of migrants.
On land, representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the NGO
Save the Children
and the Red Cross
were also waiting
to assist the migrants.
These days, the MSF human rights officer has spoken with them to document their stories and try to identify those who are especially vulnerable so they can receive assistance.
A long day
The ship had started the engines on Friday at 05.00 in the morning to approach the coast from the anchor point assigned to it the night before. Upon entering the port, it was located in an area surrounded by large mountains of scrap metal, next to an esplanade where some white tents were already erected, at a certain distance from each other, where the authorities have established the points to proceed with the search. of migrants. Since the day before, many rescued from the
They had put on their clothes and stored their belongings in the blue backpack they received when they arrived, prepared for when the time came. On Friday, some were styling their hair and a young Moroccan pulled out his green and white Raja Club Athletic scarf, one of the soccer teams of the city of Casablanca.
"It's like Atlético de Madrid," he joked.
The activity within the
It had started early so that everything was ready to receive the authorities of the Maritime Health Office who came up to inspect the ship and organize with the MSF crew the operation to carry out rapid tests for covid-19. The entire crew wore the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): the now famous yellow suits, protective goggles and a special mask. The authorities also entered with protective suits, face shields and gloves. The three representatives of the Office of Maritime Health reviewed the deck of the men they welcomed to Italy. Their words were greeted with cheers and applause, "Italy, Italy!", The place they have been waiting for days. Next, a team from the Red Cross climbed the metal walkway deployed on one side of the
The tests were carried out on the women's deck, on the top floor, first the people with medical needs, the families and the pregnant woman, the unaccompanied minors, the women and lastly the rest. The same order in which the landing began, which has been organized by groups of about 40 people. Most were the first time they had seen one of these tests. The 18-year-old Fatima from Ivorian resisted a bit, but in the end she shook hands with a toilet and held on while they put the cotton swab up her nose. The three children under the age of six also passed the test as if it were another of the games they have shared these days with the crew. With them they have painted with chalk on the ground, they have jumped, they have learned a word in a "strange" language and they have laughed out loud. Teenagers,waiting for their turn, they looked at a colored world map on the wall. "We are here," says one. "I want to go here," says another, pointing to Germany. They both look at each other and smile.
On the ground floor, meanwhile, the rest of the migrants waited sitting on the ground in an area delimited with a red and white tape so that they could keep their distance from the ship's ropes and gears. The wait was long, so they served a round of tea. John - the young Sudanese - gives a thumbs-up from afar. It means that it is okay and, again, to say thank you. At the end of the day, more than a hundred migrants were still on the boat. They will spend the night in it, as the Italian authorities have not been able to complete the process in a long day. The landing will continue tomorrow. John is one of those who have stayed.
rescued in just two days seven vessels that were sailing in precarious conditions. In total, they saved 410 people of about twenty nationalities who took one of the most dangerous routes to reach Europe. The last operations were carried out in the search and rescue zone (SAR,
search and rescue
) of Malta, but in the face of the rejection of the Maltese authorities, which were the nearest port, Italy has assumed responsibility. So far this year, 18,358 migrants have reached the Italian shores, according to that country's Ministry of the Interior, and 679 people have died in the central Mediterranean. Currently the European Union does not have any rescue and rescue missions in the area.