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Ocean Viking: Hundreds of rescued migrants disembark in southern Italy

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By AP
Staffers distribute food to migrants on the deck of the Ocean Viking rescue vessel.
Staffers distribute food to migrants on the deck of the Ocean Viking rescue vessel.   -   Copyright  Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee via AP
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Hundreds of migrants have disembarked from a humanitarian rescue ship in Sicily after Italy offered the vessel a safe port.

The SOS Mediterranee rescue group had warned that food was running out and tensions were rising on board their ship, Ocean Viking.

The organisation said that the sick and young were the first of the 572 migrants to disembark in Augusta on Friday. All are being tested for the coronavirus on land.

On Thursday, Italy had agreed to let the ship dock in Sicily after the Ocean Viking's crew reported worsening conditions on board.

The vessel said that five requests to maritime authorities in Italy and Malta to assign a port of safety had gone unmet.

The European Commission said it welcomed Italy’s decision to let the ship dock and added that it was prepared to coordinate a voluntary relocation of the migrants to other European countries.

Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz has urged EU member states to step up "in a spirit of solidarity and shared responsibility" to manage migration flows in Europe.

Italy and Malta insist that other European nations also take a share of the migrants.

During the pandemic, Rome has taken to quarantining rescued migrants aboard out-of-service commercial passenger ferries until they can be transferred to asylum processing centers in Sicily or on the mainland.

While many migrants reach Italy after rescue at sea by charity boats, cargo ships, or military vessels, others make it to Italy’s southern shores unaided after they set out from Tunisia or Libya.