Rusted cargo ship brings 686 migrants to Italy, some infected with scabies

The largest single migrant arrival in years was docked in Italy on Monday, with many suffering from the contagious skin disease scabies, the Associated Press reported.

The scabies outbreak suggested the migrants who came to Italy were close enough to easily spread the disease during their detention in Libya.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, the disease is known to spread easily as Bangladeshis and Sub-Saharan Africans were often held in extremely cramped conditions on the ship’s lower deck.

The fishing boat with the migrants was also very full with 686 people. Once the ship was docked, passengers were immediately taken to a reception center to transact and receive COVID-19 vaccinations, a result of the new Italian program to vaccinate new migrants entering the country.

“This is the highest number of people who arrived on a single boat in 2021,” said the UN refugee agency. “Such numbers – for a single arrival – have not been recorded since August 2016.”

More coverage from the Associated Press can be found below.

In this picture from a video, a fishing boat with migrants lies in the port of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in southern Italy late on Monday. A rusty, overloaded fishing boat carrying nearly 700 migrants arrived at an Italian island port amid new diplomatic efforts by Mediterranean governments to seek more European help in dealing with migrant flows. (AP photo / Mauro Buccarello)
Mauro Buccarello / Associated Press

Late Monday, Italian Coast Guard ships escorted the 15-meter boat into the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, an island closer to Africa than mainland Italy, which is one of the main targets for Libyan migrant smugglers.

It is rare for such a large smuggler’s boat to arrive in an Italian port with so many people. More often, smaller groups of migrants are rescued by aid groups at sea for several days after their flimsy ships have taken water. The rescue ships then bring the migrants ashore together.

According to the aid organization Mediterranean Hope in Lampedusa, 658 men, 12 women and 12 minors were among the passengers. They came from Egypt, Morocco, Chad, Ethiopia, Syria, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal and set out in Zuwarah, Libya.

The arrivals were the last in a year when the number of migrants arriving in Italy has increased significantly.

As of Monday this year, 44,778 migrants had disembarked in Italy, with the top nationalities Tunisia, Bangladesh and Egypt. The total number of arrivals in the first nine months of 2020 is almost twice as high and five times as high as in 2019, according to statistics from the Interior Ministry.

The arrivals have made more urgent the efforts of the Mediterranean countries to put pressure on the European Union to develop a fairer migration policy that addresses the problem of people fleeing their home countries and spreading the burden across the European frontline countries.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese met with her counterparts from Spain, Malta, Greece and Cyprus this week in Malaga, Spain, and said there was an “urgent” need to have European policies that are fair and “ambitious” funding for Provides border patrols and redistribution and return programs.

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