A ship with more than 500 people on board was found adrift off the coast of Italy on Saturday (28).
The blue boat seemed to be “overflowing” with people, in an image that conveys the dimension of the desperation of migrants in search of a new life in Europe.
The Italian coast guard counted 539 passengers, including women and children sitting dangerously on the sides of the ship, their legs dangling.
These were migrants who left Libya to seek asylum and refuge in Europe. Italian authorities said the boat was drifting off the island of Lampedusa. Some of those rescued showed signs of having been victims of violence in their country of origin.
According to doctor Alida Srrachieri, from the humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, several have been physically attacked in Libya.
Lampedusa mayor Toto Martello described the rescue as “one of the greatest landings of all time” in a single day. Lampedusa, which lies between Sicily and the African continent, is one of the main access points for those wishing to settle in Europe.
The island has a refugee and migrant camp originally designed to house 300 people. But currently, there are five times more. Many other migrants are outside this place, camped on dusty roads.
Most risk being returned to their country of origin, as they come from countries that do not have the right to asylum.