450 refugees rescued in Italy, including 180 children – UNHCR

UNHCR staff meet refugees and migrants disembarking in the port of Augusta, Sicily, on 1 May 2021. © UNHCR/Alessio Mamo

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced Tuesday that 450 refugees were rescued and sent to Italy.

These refugees, including some 180 children, were rescued by German non-governmental organization Sea Watch and disembarked on the port of Trapani in Sicily, Italy. “Since the early hours of Saturday 1 May, some 1,500 persons have disembarked in Italy,” UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami said.

“Most of the arrivals departed from Libya onboard flimsy, unseaworthy vessels and made repeated distress calls,” she said.

There is a sharp increase in the number of refuges crossing the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe, as 10,400 people arrived in Italy in 2021, 170 percent more than in the first five months of 2020.

Furthermore, the UNHCR noted that at least 500 people died at sea in 2021, far more than 150 during the same period in 2020. Among the several disembarkations in Italy, “we have noticed a high presence of children, many of whom are unaccompanied,” said Sami.

Many of the refugees came from Mali, Eritrea, the Sahel region and North Africa, “fleeing from war and conflicts, like in the Sahel where indiscriminate attacks constantly lead to death and forced displacement,” she said.

The situation in Libya is bound to deteriorate, said UNHCR, urging European Union countries to show solidarity and calling on the international community to provide better protection and alternative, safer paths for fleeing refugees.

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