Rescue boat seeks port for 200 migrants in Mediterranean

ROME (AP) — A German-flagged charity boat says it has been waiting for several days for port permission so it can disembark 201 migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean.

The charity Sea-Watch said Thursday that the migrants were rescued earlier in the week by the ship Sea-Watch 4, and that Malta rejected its port request. The Italian coast guard on Wednesday evacuated another migrant who had been aboard Sea-Watch 4, a teenager who had severe fuel burns.

Among the migrants awaiting a port were several that were transferred to Sea-Watch 4 by a smaller boat, the Louise Michel, Sea-Watch Italy tweeted.

According to Italian media, the Louise Michel is a former French coast guard motorboat put into service by activists for rescues in the Mediterranean after being painted by the street artist Bansky.

Sea-Watch said waiting for a port off Malta were 27 migrants aboard the merchant ship which rescued them 22 days ago.

Disembarking rescued migrants in Italy has become particularly politically sensitive during the pandemic. Last week, the governor of Sicily closed all migrant centers on the Italian island since the residences had become too crowded to guarantee social distancing. Some rescued migrants in Italy have also tested positive.

On Thursday, an administrative court in Sicily ruled that the governor’s order be stayed for now, pending an outcome of an expected challenge by Italy’s central government, which is in charge of migrant policy.

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