German rescue boat with 800 migrants aboard heads to Sicily

ROME , Nov 7 (AP)— A German humanitarian ship with more than 800 rescued migrants aboard was sailing to Sicily on Sunday after being granted permission by Italian authorities after days of waiting at sea.

The organization Sea-Eye said its vessel Sea-Eye 4 was assigned the port of Trapani, in western Sicily, on Saturday evening.

Sea-Eye tweeted its thanks to the Italian coast guard after permission to use Trapani as a port of safety was granted.

About half of the migrants had been rescued from a sinking wooden boat a few days earlier in the week and taken onto Sea-Eye 4, which already had aboard around 400 passengers plucked to safety from the Mediterranean in separate operations.

On Saturday, Sea-Eye 4 received a delivery of food and blankets while it waited to learn where the migrants could set food on land.

Sea-Eye 4 had set a course for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa after the latest rescue on Nov. 4. But the tiny island’s housing facility for migrants who are rescued at sea and brought to Lampedusa’s port is chronically overcrowded.

Minors, including children under 10, and five pregnant women are among those taken on board Sea-Eye 4. Doctors on the ship treated 25 people for hypothermia, sea sickness and high blood pressure, along with injuries that doctors say are consistent with torture administered during their escape.

The blankets and food were supplied by the Dresden, Germany-based charity Mission Lifeline, which said more than 200 cities and towns in Germany have signaled a willingness to take in migrants.

The number of migrants daring the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing has surged this year to more than 54,000. While higher than the most recent years, the numbers are dramatically below those of 2014-2017, when 120,000-180,000 people reached Italy a year, often in rickety smugglers’ boats.