A vessel with more than 500 people on board was found adrift off the coast of Italy on Saturday (28/08).
The blue boat seemed to “overflow” with people, in an image that gives the dimension of despair of migrants seeking a new life in Europe.
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The Italian coast guard counted 539 passengers, among them women and children sitting dangerously on the sides of the vessel, with their legs hanging out.
They were migrants who left Libya in an attempt to obtain asylum and refuge in Europe. Italian authorities said the boat was adrift in front of the island of Lampedusa. Some of those rescued showed signs of having been victims of violence in their country of origin.
According to the doctor Alida Srrachieri, of the humanitarian NGO Doctors Without Borders, several appear to have been physically attacked in Libya.
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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 that number. Many other migrants are outside this place, encamped on dusty roads.
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Most are at risk of being deported back to their country of origin, as they come from nations that do not qualify for asylum.