ADDIS ABABA – Italian military vessels on Saturday aided a decrepit fishing boat crammed with 539 migrants that was approaching the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
The rescue on Saturday delivered one of the largest numbers of migrants to the Italian island in a single day.
Women and children were among those on board. Alida Serrachieri, a nurse who runs the Doctors Without Borders’ operation on Lampedusa, said she didn’t know how long the fishing boat had been at sea after being launched from Libyan shores.
But she said the migrants had spent weeks or even months in Libya awaiting passage in traffickers’ boats in hopes of reaching Europe.
At least 20 of the migrants who were examined by medical personnel had scars from torture, she said.
“They had burn wounds, firearms wounds,” Serrachieri told the AP. ”(They) were very worn down, some were dehydrated.”
Over 20,000 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since 2014, according to International Migration Organisation (IOM).
Featured Image: Hundreds of migrants crammed onto a decrepit fishing boat were rescued off the island of Lampedusa, Italy. [Photo EPA]