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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ROME — More than 400 migrants pulled from the sea in recent days will be allowed to disembark in Italy, a rescue charity said on Tuesday.
"Forced to risk their lives to flee across the Mediterranean, 216 men, 38 women and 149 children will soon finally reach safety," SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter, adding that they would disembark at the southern port of Taranto.
The Ocean Viking ship, which is run by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, picked up the migrants in five separate operations over the past four days.
Other charities have rescued around 250 migrants from the Mediterranean over the same period — and they are now waiting for a port of entry.
Italy has come under fire in the past for refusing to allow private vessels carrying migrants to dock — former interior minister Matteo Salvini is facing a potential trial for illegally detaining migrants at sea.
However, Italy has authorized the arrival of charity ships since it signed a deal with France, Germany, and Malta last September — an agreement meant to avoid drawn-out negotiations on where migrants will be allowed to dock.
The latest rescues come as fighting in Libya intensifies — a cease-fire broke down over the weekend and weapons shipments to the conflict zone have resumed.
The UN Refugee Agency's Charlie Yaxley highlighted the increase in violence on Tuesday, tweeting that unrest in Libya would lead to more migrants risking the sea journey to Europe.
"Now time for a port to be assigned for speedy disembarkation," he added.
Since the summer of 2018, the European Union has tasked Libya's coastguard with coordinating search and rescue operations in a vast stretch of the Mediterranean beyond their territorial waters.
But human rights groups say the task is impossible because of fighting in Libya and have condemned the dangerous detention centers where rescued migrants are sent.
In 2019, the International Organization for Migration recorded 1,283 deaths in the Mediterranean, the deadliest route for migrants attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa to Italy.
Over the past five years, at least 19,164 migrants have died in the sea.
Italy has often complained of having to take the bulk of migrants crossing the Mediterranean -- some 600,000 reaching its coastline since 2013. — AFP
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