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Rescue ship filled with migrants headed for Sicily

Rescue ship filled with migrants headed for Sicily
© Getty Images

Humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee said Ocean Viking, a rescue ship carrying 422 migrants, was headed into port in Sicily on Sunday after receiving permission from the Italian government.

The migrants were rescued by the vessel in four operations over a two-day period, according to search and rescue coordinator Luisa Albera. Albera said a pregnant woman and another person accompanying her had been evacuated to Malta by helicopter the day before, The Associated Press reported.

Eight of those aboard have tested positive for coronavirus and are in isolation, according to the organization.

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“But although strict COVID-19 mitigation protocols apply on board the Ocean Viking, this is a vessel of 69 meters (228 feet) in length,” Albera said, according to the AP. “This situation is a further reason for the remaining 422 survivors, who are in confined space on the aft deck, to be promptly disembarked in a place of safety,” she said.

Italian officials have begun transferring passengers on rescue ships to other ships to allow them to quarantine upon arrival during the pandemic, according to the AP. The latest wave of migrants arriving in Italy are predominantly assessed as economic migrants rather than escapees from war or political persecution, making them ineligible for asylum.

Meanwhile, numerous other migrants entering Italy by land from the Balkans have been turned back both in Italy and Slovenia, according to the AP. Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope Francis asks Minnesota bishop to resign following Vatican probe Biden should look to 'Ostpolitik' to negotiate with autocrats The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE on Sunday called for humanitarian assistance in particular to unaccompanied minors, saying that while he had recently learned of the plight of those on the Balkan route, “there are so many … on all the routes.”

“Let’s work so that these fragile and defenseless creatures don’t lack dutiful care and preferential humanitarian channels,” the pontiff continued, according to the AP.