Rome – An Italian aid group known as Mediterranea on Wednesday said it had resumed its migrant rescue operations in the central Mediterranean with its Mare Jonio vessel.
“Mediterranea returns to the sea, in full compliance with anti-COVID regulations, to monitor and report the violations of human rights that continually occur in the Mediterranean,’’ the group tweeted.
In 2019, the Mare Jonio was impounded for several months under the terms of tough anti-immigration laws spearheaded by Italy’s far-right former interior minister Matteo Salvini.
Germany’s Sea-Watch is currently the only other non-governmental organisation (NGO) running a rescue mission in the Mediterranean, after only having resumed its activities a few days ago.
“After more than three months in the port of #Messina, we are finally heading to the search and rescue zone north of the Libyan coast again, where we are urgently needed,’’ the NGO tweeted.
In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, both Italy and Malta closed their ports to sea migrants, putting them under quarantine on offshore rented vessels.
In recent months, many other migrants were intercepted and illegally returned to Libya, and some drowned at sea, according to human rights groups.
On Tuesday, Sea-Watch said its drone had spotted three boats in distress in international waters between Malta and Libya, with about 200 migrants.
However, the NGO said it was “afraid” that they were intercepted and returned to Libya because “a Libyan patrol boat was also in the area.”