Rescue ships carrying some 500 migrants arrive in Italy after difficult crossing

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By Euronews  with EFE
Plastic slippers are given to a man disembarking from the Geo Barents rescue ship in Italy.
Plastic slippers are given to a man disembarking from the Geo Barents rescue ship in Italy.   -   Copyright  Massimo Di Nonno/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Two humanitarian boats, carrying a total of 509 migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean, have arrived at Italian ports, after days at sea in adverse weather conditions.

The Geo Barents, chartered by Médecins Sans Frontières, arrived at the port of Salerno, south of Naples, with 248 migrants on board, after a mother who gave birth to a baby and a 14-year-old boy with severe abdominal pains were evacuated.

Humanity 1, which belongs to Germany's SOS Humanity, entered the port of Bari with another 261 migrants who were rescued at sea.

Until Friday, the two humanitarian vessels were off the coast of the Italian island of Sicily, awaiting a safe port.

The Italian government granted them two ports which are on the mainland, forcing the vessels and the 509 rescued migrants to sail for another day in rough weather conditions.

"We have been sailing for almost 40 hours at full speed and in adverse weather conditions, with very strong winds and waves up to three metres high. The crossing was exhausting," a Humanity 1 spokesperson said.

Italy's Interior Ministry said the mainland ports were chosen so reception centres in Sicily would not become overcrowded. 

Ministry sources maintain that the government, led by the far-right Giorgia Meloni, has not reversed its policy against NGOs that save migrants at sea, which it accuses of encouraging the flow of migrants from Africa by their mere presence.