50-Foot Boat Carrying 686 Migrants Lands in Lampedusa

Recently-arrived migrants at Lampedusa, Italy, 2008 (Sara Prestianni / NoBorder Network / CC BY 2.0)

Published Sep 29, 2021 12:50 AM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday night, nearly 700 migrants arrived at the island of Lampedusa, Italy on a rusted fishing boat. It was the highest-capacity migrant vessel to reach the island since 2016, according to UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. 

The 686 passengers were a broad mix of nationalities, with arrivals from Egypt, Chad, Morocco, Syria, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Senegal. The boat, a 45-foot fishing vessel, departed Zuwara, Libya and transited north to Lampedusa, where it was intercepted by Italian patrol boats and guided into the harbor. 

Five of the passengers were taken to a local clinic for medical treatment, and the rest were escorted to Lampedusa's overcrowded migrant reception center. An additional 117 migrants arrived in five more vessels on Tuesday morning. 

"After a few days of bad weather, today with a calm sea the landings have restarted," local mayor Toto Martello told ANSA.

According to Italy's interior ministry, about 45,000 maritime migrants have arrived on Italian shores so far this year - about six times as many as the total during the first nine months of 2019. During that period, then-interior minister Matteo Salvini imposed a near-complete closure of Italy's ports to migration, using an aggressive interpretation of the law to deter or detain NGO migrant rescue vessels. These policies ultimately created political and legal difficulties for Salvini: he is currently on trial on charges of kidnapping for refusing to allow a migrant rescue vessel to dock in Sicily in August 2019. 

Top image: Sara Prestianni / NoBorder Network / CC BY 2.0