Charity rescue ship with 265 migrants anchors off Italy

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Migrants from Eritrea, Egypt, Syria and Sudan, rest on board the Spanish NGO Open Arms vessel after having been rescued in the Mediterranean sea, about 110 miles north of Libya, on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Joan Mateu)

ROME – Italy allowed a Spanish-flagged charity ship with 265 rescued migrants aboard to anchor off Sicily on Monday.

The Open Arms vessel had brought the migrants safely aboard in separate rescues last week in the central Mediterranean. Port officials in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, said rough seas Monday evening were for the time being delaying the transfer of minors, reported to number 50, to a shelter on land after they tested negative for the coronavirus.

The remaining adults were expected to be transferred to a ferry chartered by Italy earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic so the migrants can do two weeks of quarantine as others rescued at sea have done.

Open Arms said 96 of those rescued had been adrift two days in a wooden boat without life vests in international waters. It said the passengers, most of them from Eritrea, included two women and 17 minors and were suffering from hypothermia when rescued.

In an earlier, separate operation, Open Arms had taken aboard 169 migrants, who had departed Libyan shores, where many human traffickers are based.

Traffickers launch unseaworthy dinghies or fishing boats, crowded with migrants who have paid them in hopes of reaching Europe so they can seek asylum. Many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have been rescued at sea in recent years are fleeing poverty and eventually are denied asylum by European Union countries.

Italy is trying to get fellow EU nations to take in many of the migrants who are brought ashore after rescue since many of the passengers are aiming to get to northern Europe where relatives or jobs await them.