Italy’s coast guard said Monday it had granted authorization for 105 migrants rescued at sea by a Spanish aid group to transfer to a sturdier boat after more than a daylong bureaucratic tussle left them exposed to the elements on the Mediterranean Sea.
It was the second time in as many months that Italy has delayed allowing rescued migrants to reach safety by insisting on bureaucratic formalities in what appears to be a strategy to dissuade aid groups from rescuing migrants.
Spain’s Proactiva Open Arms said the migrants, including six children and 32 unaccompanied teenagers, were in stable condition Monday but they were exposed to bad weather and living in inappropriate conditions aboard the Astral, a sailing vessel turned rescue ship that Proactiva has used for emergency assistance. Aquarius, a bigger rescue ship of the French SOS Mediterranee non-profit group, waited for much of Monday to take them to a safe port.
The nonprofits said the vessels –both sailing under the British flag– had been waiting for authorization since early Monday at around 25 nautical miles (28.75 statute miles) off the town of Khoms on the Libyan coast. Italy’s coast guard said the British had to grant authorization for the transfer, but Britain said it wasn’t co-ordinating the rescue.
“They are throwing the ball at each other and we are in the middle,” said Astral’s captain Riccardo Gatti, blaming Italian and British authorities more than 30 hours after the migrants were rescued from a drifting and engineless rubber boat.
“The situation is becoming unbearable due to worsening weather, cold and the health and hygiene conditions onboard,” he added.