Meanwhile, the 60 refugees aboard the NGO ship Geo Barents are finally allowed to reach Italy eight days after they were rescued
OVER 680 people crammed into a decrepit fishing vessel survived a journey across the Mediterranean last night.
The Italian customs police intercepted a 15-meter-long vessel carrying 686 people four miles off the coast of Lampedusa late on Monday night and escorted it to port.
Five of the survivors were taken to hospital soon after.
According to the authorities, the boat set sail from Libya, and its passengers came mainly from Syria, Morocco, Bangladesh and Egypt.
Close to 200 more people arrived on Lampedusa throughout the night on smaller boats.
German refugee rescue organisation Sea Watch said the fishing vessel was “the largest boat in over two years to make it independently from Libya to Europe.
“Almost exactly eight years ago, two accidents occurred with similar boats, in which over 550 people drowned in total.
“The fact that these boats are risking the crossing again in increasing numbers and the situation in the central Mediterranean is currently being ignored is alarming.
“We call on the upcoming German government to make sea rescue an issue again and stand up for safe and legal escape routes.”
Meanwhile, the Geo Barents rescue ship was finally allowed to disembark the 60 people her crew had rescued in the central Mediterranean last Monday.
The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which operates the ship, announced this evening that the Geo Barents had been assigned the port of Augusta on the Italian island of Sicily.
“We are relieved that the people on board will be soon in a safe place. After many days at sea, the waiting and uncertainty is now over,” MSF tweeted this afternoon.
Earlier today, however, the organisation said the seven calls the crew made to the Italian and Maltese authorities asking for a port had been ignored.
Before the ship was allowed to come ashore, MSF psychologist Hager Saadallah said: “After eight days, the mental health condition of survivors keeps worsening. The feeling of hope has been replaced by fear, despair, anxiety and insomnia.
“The uncertainty about the disembarkation process causes severe distress for people on board.”
Top image shows the overcrowded fishing vessel carrying 686 people